Changes so far
The last few years have been tough and making significant year-on-year savings whilst protecting essential services is getting harder and harder to achieve.
To find the £174m of savings we have made so far we have:
- Cut almost 3,000 jobs.
- Reduced management costs by 30% and frozen councillor allowances.
- Cut back office costs (e.g. Human Resources, Finance and Business Support) by more than a third.
- Consolidated office space (30% reduction) and reduced our property holdings (98 freeholds disposed of and 9 leases relinquished bringing £1.015m revenue savings and £28.9m capita receipts).
- Entered into money saving partnerships like the merger of our trading standards and pensions administration teams with Somerset County Council.
New ways of working
In addition to making regular efficiency savings we are constantly looking at all our services to ensure they are commissioned or provided in the most cost effective way possible.
For example, over the past few years we have:
- Entered into joint venture arrangements with Devon Norse to provide catering, cleaning and facilities management services and with Babcock LDP to provide specialist support services to schools.
- Joined with health to jointly commission integrated children’s support services through Virgin Care.
Prioritisation and Service Reviews
Going further, in order to prevent a salami-slicing approach to finding savings, we have had to look again at everything we do and prioritise statutory services that we MUST provide.
In order to protect funding for critical services such as child protection or social care for the elderly and vulnerable as much as possible then all other aspects of the council’s work has come under scrutiny.
Major reviews have already been undertaken in some important service areas such as Youth Services, Libraries, Day Care Services, Residential Care, Highways Maintenance and Public Transport with extensive public consultation on new ideas for these services.
This has resulted in:
- A reduction in in-house youth centre provision (with buildings and equipment offered back to communities). We are currently investigating the potential alternative management models including a staff mutual to continue to provide a core service across the county.
- Work to establish a staff and community owned ‘mutual’ independent library organisation which would be commissioned by Devon County Council to run libraries on their behalf from April 2016.
- The closure of county-council run residential care homes in order to release funding for more care home placements in the independent sector and boost funding for more community-based services to help people live at home.
- The re-modelling of council-run day care services to cut costs whilst ensuring essential local provision and investment for alternative community services.
No let-up in the level of savings that local government is expected to find is expected over the next few years.
All services will be expected to find a share of these savings and every single aspect of the council’s business must come under intense scrutiny.
To continue to protect essential care services and meet the most important local priorities is likely to require an ever more creative and radical approach.
This is likely to include working ever more closely and in new and very different ways with our partners and with local communities.