special needs budget - Council Tax hike - chief executive appointed

Cheshire East Council is embarking on a “transformation programme” to change the way the council operates and try to save £100 million over the next four years, writes Belinda Ryan.

The cash-strapped council was recently granted exceptional financial support from the government to the tune of £17.6 million.

That money, if used, must be repaid over a 20-year period.

But one of the key requirements is the council has to produce an improvement and transformation plan within six months of acceptance of that financial support – which, for Cheshire East, is August 27 at the latest.

The council itself also requested a Local Government Association peer challenge, so it can learn from best practice from similar councils.

That will be carried out next week.

Chris Allman, head of neighbourhood services, told yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of the corporate policy committee: “The transformation programme will facilitate deeper and broader services, this is based around the need to address the £100 million shortfall within the MTFS [budget] over the next four years.

“We would very much look at to invest in digital technologies to enable the council to fully leverage those.”

Mr Allman said it was also crucial “to develop an organisation workforce that’s flexible, to ensure they have the necessary skills and be able to work effectively in what will be a completely transformed authority and council”.

Because of a staffing shortfall – the council is carrying 14 senior staff vacancies – a partner will have to be brought on board to help with the work involved with the transformation programme.

The cost of the programme could be in the region of £450,000.

Cllr Liz Wardlaw (Odd Rode, Con) said what social services and other areas could do with that money.

But deputy council leader Michael Gorman (Wilmslow, Ind) said: “This is potentially a £450,000 investment and I would put the word investment in there and underline it several times.”

The report to the committee states any external partner will be required to identify savings that far exceed the money being paid out.

And a return on investment of somewhere between 3:1 and 5:1 would be expected.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Gorman referred to other councils which had undergone a similar process.

“Looking at other councils, Leicestershire have gone through this process and they saved £75m in two years with really enhanced services,” he said.

Crewe councillor Jill Rhodes (Lab) said staff must be wondering what is going to happen when the transformation programme comes into play, and the council must ensure it talked to unions.

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) said: “Transformation, MTFS’ are only as good as the efficiency with which we implement them.”

She said the most significant aspect for her was the reference in the report to re-prioritising to create an opportunity to invest in critical areas.

Rob Polkinghorne, CEC’s new chief executive, said: “Transformation will initially focus on financial recovery before moving on to service redesign in the longer term.

“We need to invest in capacity to change in order to deliver future savings and efficiencies – but any external partner will be required to identify savings that far exceed their costs.

“Work to prepare for and inform the transformation programme is already underway.

“The Local Government Association (LGA) is supporting with a corporate peer review and a review of organisational leadership capacity and structure.

“The council has also received grant funding of £105,000 from the LGA to support our transformation work, although we will need to use reserves to fully fund investment in the programme.

“We will be looking to take full advantage of digital solutions, ensuring that support is accessible and that our workforce is flexible with the right skills to work effectively within a transformed council.”

The committee was unanimous in backing the transformation approach for the council.

6 Comments

  1. Petition is closed

  2. Both Mr Moorhouse and Mr Silvester are absolutely correct. It is time the Council, Its Executive Team and Counsellors got a real grip on the waste.
    Counsellor Silvester has highlighted the millions of pounds that has been frittered away.

  3. Chris Moorhouse says:

    Note the use of waffle and jargon in the item. 14 senior posts vacant needs assessment as to why they need such a top heavy structure in the first place. I suspect the programme will cost more than the £450k for the consultants who are expert in increasing “on costs”. I have yet to see a situation in LA’s when the use of consultants have delivered major cost savings. They tend to do little cost improvement and then go away with a big cheque.
    Let us hope the new CE of CEC gets a grip on this and sorts out his senior staff who should have been doing it as part of their day to day functions.

  4. Labour run @CheshireEast are not short of money.
    #CheshireEast is short of good management and common sense.
    If the Council was managed properly there would be no need for the usual inflation busting Council Tax increases each year.
    Here are just a few of the ways that our hard earned Council taxes have been frittered away :-
    £20 MILLION on unpaid Council tax in three years.
    £11+ MILLION on a multi storey car in the centre of Crewe that nobody asked for and few will use.
    £11 MILLION spent on preparation for the Northern Leg of #HS2 , which has now been cancelled.
    £10+ MILLION on a #HistoryCentre in Crewe town centre.
    £7 MILLION of unpaid bills of money owed to the Council.
    £6 MILLION on a botched IT system.
    £5 MILLION a year spent on consultants.
    £4 MILLION on a Solar Farm just outside
    Crewe. £1.2 MILLION on agency staff.
    £1 + MILLION a year on Councillor Allowances….and that does not include the generous ‘Responsibility Allowances’.
    £MILLIONS wasted on the revolving door of Chief Executives, Temporary Chief Executives and fat cat salaries.
    £MILLIONS wasted on a variety of schemes on Crewe’s Lyceum Square, which were started, then dug up, or never started at all. https://youtube.com/watch?v=Cp9rs3

  5. Exactly our point!!!! how only now can the authority suddenly save £100m and why were these financial efficiencies/initiatives not put into place immediately when Labour took over instead of feeding the financial waste giant that it has become?

    A request has now been put forward to call for an emergency Full Council Meeting to put a motion forward for the Leader to stand down and offer his resignation. I hope your ward councillors support us. A minimum of £60m of financial waste in the last 4 years!

    His poor treatment to the residents and his sheer neglect to listen to our voice has finally caught up with him.

    Thank you so much everyone for your support. Over 1250 signatures already! This speaks volumes.

    Let’s make a change or we won’t see change. The public are the boss!!

    Thank you again

    https://chng.it/4qVGXqn2dr

  6. The Proof of the Pudding will be in the eating.
    Start by stopping waste on vanity projects.
    Officers and Counsellors need to stop thinking they can just keep spending tax payers money . Think you are trustees for the tax payer and need to deliver core services providing excellent value for money.
    I hope they achieve success.
    Remember words are words, actions are actions and results are everything.

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