Bath & North East Somerset Council has published a series of key proposals designed to ensure it continues to meet the financial and social challenges facing local authorities across the country.
The council’s draft Organisational Plan, published yesterday, will be discussed at the council’s Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels in the run-up to February’s cabinet and full council meetings on the budget.
The plan highlights that Bath and North East Somerset remains an attractive and vibrant area with a strong council that has delivered significant savings since 2010 without serious impacts on local services. However, a financial squeeze on local authority services now and in the future means that identifying savings will become more and more challenging.
By 2020/21, Revenue Support Grant (RSG) received from central government will have reduced to zero – from £21m in 2015-16. This comes in the context of challenges such as the rapid growth in the number of both vulnerable young people and older people needing social care support – with 82p in every £1 spent by the authority going to adult and children’s services.
Supporting the 21 children with the most complex needs will cost more than £2m in 2018/19.
The draft plan highlights proposals for addressing these challenges through new ways of working, including:
- Amove to more online ‘digital’ services and reduction in office costs
- Contract savings
- Increasing income from Heritage Services
- Managing demand for Adult Care through new commissioning arrangements
- Better prioritisation of services – including the development of a “core offer” designed to focus on delivery of these priorities
The council is also making savings through a staff restructure, with a target of £5.7m in 2018/19.
The plan highlights that the council will need to work even more closely with community groups, parish councils and the voluntary sector to help deliver its priorities, through initiatives such as the Parish Charter.
The report suggests establishing a ‘Bath and North East Somerset Deal’, drawing on work undertaken by a number of authorities which are working with local communities to draw up a series of commitments to help improve their areas.
This builds on work recently undertaken with the local Area Forums and with partners in the voluntary and community sector. The plan highlights the council and community working together to secure the future of the library service which has already seen additional community-run libraries open.
Councillor Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council, along with all similar local authorities, has experienced historically unprecedented reductions in funding. This means we must carefully prioritise what we spend to ensure we continue to support our most vulnerable residents.
“However, we will also promote the wider wellbeing of the community so our area continues to attract investment and we can improve life chances for local people. To do this we will continue to work with a wide range of partners and I am particularly pleased to see WECA delivering significant benefits for communities in Bath & North East Somerset, including a very timely investment in our local High Streets.”
Councillor Charles Gerrish, Cabinet Member for Finance & Efficiency, said: “Over the past few years we have been successful in delivering efficiency savings while increasing our commercial income and we will continue to do this. However, the scale of the financial challenge means some fundamental changes will be required to the way in which a range of services are delivered.
“I have been talking in recent months to residents and community groups about our ‘core offer’ and priorities and how we can best work together to deliver services in new and cost-effective ways.
“We have also responded to concerns raised locally by requesting from central government the power to introduce a levy on local tourism and short-term holiday lettings, and also for compensation for the loss of council funding for student households.”
Feedback from the PDS Panels will be collated by the Resources Panel and considered at the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, 6th February, at 4pm, Community Space – Civic Centre Keynsham and by full council on Tuesday, 19th February, 6:30pm at the Council Chamber in the Guildhall, Bath.