‘Pub­lic part­ner­ship’ bid to beat coun­cil’s un­prece­dented cuts

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­[email protected]­plc.com

A part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity is at the heart of “fun­da­men­tal changes” to the way Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil serves its res­i­dents. Faced with “his­tor­i­cally un­prece­dented” fund­ing cuts, it can no longer be a “univer­sal provider of all ser­vices” so lead­ers are look­ing at new ways of work­ing which fo­cus on a “core of­fer”. To do this, B&NES Coun­cil will stop or re­duce ser­vices, share staffing and re­sources with other au­thor­i­ties, re­view its cap­i­tal spend­ing pro­gramme, and look to squeeze more prof­its from its mu­se­ums and gal­leries. By next year a Gov­ern­ment grant worth £21 mil­lion in 2015/16 will have been slashed to noth­ing. The cuts have come at the same time as ris­ing costs due to grow­ing de­mand and de­mo­graphic changes that mean nearly 82p in ev­ery pound is spent on adult so­cial care and chil­dren’s ser­vices. The re­sult is a fore­cast bud­get gap of £50 mil­lion by 2023/24. Coun­cil­lor Charles Ger­rish, cab­i­net mem­ber for fi­nance and ef­fi­ciency, said: “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.” The strate­gies are laid out in its new draft or­gan­i­sa­tional plan, which says: “We have no choice but to change the way we do things. We no longer have suf­fi­cient re­sources to be a univer­sal provider of all ser­vices. “We can no longer try to pro­vide ev­ery­thing that we have in the past and to that same level; less money and peo­ple will mean fewer and dif­fer­ent ser­vices.” Coun­cil leader Tim War­ren said: “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.” B&NES Coun­cil has saved £55 mil­lion since 2013 and needs to cut an­other £12 mil­lion from its bud­get by 2021. Over the next 12 months it will shift its fo­cus to its core of­fer of:

■ Pro­tect­ing and car­ing for the most vul­ner­a­ble

■ Nur­tur­ing res­i­dents’ health, safety and well­be­ing

■ Pro­vid­ing ways for ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity to reach their full po­ten­tial The op­er­a­tional plan says the coun­cil will do this by re­duc­ing or stop­ping ser­vices but main­tain­ing the core of­fer; shar­ing staffing with the West of Eng­land Com­bined Au­thor­ity, the clin­i­cal com­mis­sion­ing group and other bod­ies; and man­ag­ing de­mand for adult care. The au­thor­ity will re­view its con­tracts and its cap­i­tal spend­ing pro­gramme, look to in­crease prof­its from her­itage ser­vices, and “ra­tio­nalise” its use of of­fice space. It is also launch­ing the “B&NES Deal” to repli­cate a scheme in Wi­gan, where the coun­cil struck “an in­for­mal agree­ment [with] ev­ery­one who lives or works here to work to­gether to cre­ate a bet­ter bor­ough”. The coun­cil will look to work even more closely with com­mu­nity groups, parish coun­cils and the vol­un­tary sec­tor to help de­liver its pri­or­i­ties. The or­gan­i­sa­tional plan will be scru­ti­nised be­fore it is con­sid­ered by cab­i­net mem­bers next month.

Coun­cil­lor Charles Ger­rish, left, and coun­cil lead­er­tim War­ren

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