Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Transformation at the heart of County Council corporate budget plans

Friday, 17 January 2014

Transforming the way Hampshire County Council operates and does business, forms the core of budget proposals for 2014/15 to be considered by the Executive Member for Policy and Resources at his decision day on 24 January.

County Council Leader and Executive Member for Policy and Resources, Councillor Roy Perry will be asked to consider plans to help the Council continue to develop more efficient and modern approaches to how it works. This is in order to help deliver necessary savings, resulting from a 43 per cent cut in funding from Government since 2010, and rising demands on social care services.

The County Council needs to find overall savings of £93 million by 2015/16. This is equivalent to a 12 per cent cut in the Council's total budget, or £68 per resident. Within the £97.6million budget proposals for the Policy and Resources portfolio are early savings of £5.6 million as part of the budget for 2014/15, reaching almost £10 million for the full 2015/16 financial year. The majority of these savings will be delivered from the Council's corporate and central functions.

Among the transformational proposals are the use of more efficient and modern working practices, opportunities to further develop sold and shared services with partners, as well as co-locating with other public services. The Council has reduced its office space by about a third already through making better use of buildings, resulting in £2 million annual savings. The greater use of digital channels offers significant potential for further efficiencies in supporting people while still offering high levels of customer service. Central to these proposals, is the Integrated Business Centre (IBC) which is the driver behind Hampshire's overall change programme. It will deliver transactional and business support services to the County Council, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary, to remove duplication, save money and increase future resilience for the three organisations - ultimately reducing the pressure to cut frontline services for the people of Hampshire.

Savings in the use of IT are being put forward, together with opportunities to generate additional income in a number of services including Registration, IT and Legal Services.

It is being recommended that in order to minimise the impact on services, management structures are reviewed and roles reshaped in line with more efficient and modern business practices.

Subject to discussions with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, it is proposed to cease the Accredited Community Safety Service (ACSO) by the 31 December 2014. The resultant savings would be used to support the continuation of a comprehensive Library Service and major repairs to the corporate and countryside estates. There are significant overlaps between the ACSO service and the work undertaken by Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), which were introduced later into Hampshire than many other parts of the country. There are 33 full time equivalent staff employed as part of the ACSO service, compared to 333 PCSOs.

PCSOs are given powers by the Chief Constable, which in Hampshire includes the power to 'stop and search', with the aim of spending 80 per cent of their time in visible policing roles. ACSOs were introduced before PCSOs in Hampshire. They do not have all the powers of PCSOs and are not part of the policing service. Over the next year, discussions will be held with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable about maintaining the wider policing services provided to the county of Hampshire.

Budget proposals will also see transformation in the way the Council works locally so that communities can be supported to become more resilient and have the information they need to be able to access the right agency or person at the right time, and in the right way. This will make it easier for people to access public services themselves, improve outcomes for vulnerable residents, tackle demand and ensure value for money. The Council is also encouraging organisations to review their operations and costs, look at opportunities to reorganise themselves and collaborate, to help them save money and become more efficient, as overall reductions in the Council's grants budgets are being put forward.

£1.6 million is being earmarked for the next financial year for the Supporting Troubled Families Programme, which is on track to provide early help and support to almost 1,600 families by March 2015.

Government will also provide over £40 million in revenue funding to support the County Council in delivering the significant public health responsibilities it took on in April last year.

Councillor Roy Perry said:"Grant from Government has been cut by 43 per cent over the last four years and with further reductions expected beyond this year, the unprecedented financial challenges are set to remain for some time. Fortunately, early action by the Council to cut its costs, mean we are in a strong position to meet our savings target of over £200 million by 2015, but we cannot be complacent and take our foot off the pedal. Transformation and modernisation at the heart of our organisation will be crucial to developing an authority that remains resilient and fit for the future, in order to continue to provide quality services for the people of Hampshire. We are also aiming for a freeze in council tax for the fourth year in a row to ease the pressure on residents. Hampshire's council tax remains the lowest of county councils in the south east, and one of the lowest in the country. However, you can't remove £200 million of spending from an efficient organisation without removing capacity in some functions."

The Council's Policy and Resources Select Committee will review the budget proposals on 23 January.

Recommendations will be considered by the Council's Cabinet on 7 February before a final decision is made by the full County Council on 20 February.

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