By way of introduction the Senior Scrutiny Officer confirmed that a schedule was being prepared for arrangements for individual Members of the Executive to attend meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues or pressures. The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Carr, the Executive Member for The Change Programme who had requested to attend the meeting in order to provide background information on the new portfolio and gave an indication of the areas in which change was most likely to be effected.
The Executive had approved a report which set out the principles and approach to a Change Programme to address the unprecedented expected reduction in resource level over the next few years whilst retaining focus on leading the delivery of the future vision for Middlesbrough. A Change Programme was being developed to ensure that the Council:-
Remained fit for purpose;
Lived within reduced means;
Safeguarded the most vulnerable.
A key part of the approach was continuing to work closely with and in a more collaborative way with other local authorities, public agencies and Tees Valley partners in the immediate area. The Council was seeking to learn from the experience of other local authorities in leading transformation and those who had adopted a co-operative approach such as Oldham and Leeds.
The Board was reminded that cuts of nearly £13 million had been approved by the Council for 2013/2014 which would be implemented in addition to the £28 million savings made over the last two years. Over the next two years it was considered likely that further savings amounting to £32 million would have to be found.
Given that the current reduction process was unsustainable to cope with the expected cuts the Change Programme intended to reduce the scale of what the Council did in a systematic, coherent and controlled manner. The purpose of the Change Programme was to identify and protect, as far as possible the Council's core activities, while finding alternative means of delivering other, non-core activities.
It was confirmed that it was intended that the Change Programme would operate over a five year period and would be subject to regular review over that period in terms of delivery against agreed objectives and revised targets for spending reductions.
In response to Members' queries as to the consequences of any changes in Government or reduced level of cuts in the next few years the Executive Member indicated that the changes would ensure a minimum level of service to meet the Council's core priority of safeguarding the vulnerable and the Council would be in a better position to determine how to use any additional resources to address other priorities in delivering the future vision of the Town.
Services provided by the Council were broadly seen as being within four categories:-
Democracy/Governance - statutory and mandatory functions that were essential to the democratic process and corporate governance;
Support Services - essential functions common to all business areas that support internal customers to deliver frontline services;
Core Services - statutory functions that must be provided for local residents, communities and businesses plus other functions that were critical to the vision for the Town that only the Council could deliver;
Non-Core Services - largely non-statutory functions that while important to the Town were not core Council business and may actually be better delivered by others.
It was acknowledged that the cost reduction targets were very challenging and would require fundamental changes to both the way the Council operated and to the expectations of Members, residents and the wider community in terms of what the Council could deliver/facilitate. It was noted that over the five year period the Change Programme would need to include potential reductions in the region of 30% in the cost of democracy and governance; 50% in relation to Support Services; and 10%-15% reduction in the cost of delivering core services.
The Board sought further clarification regarding the timetable for the Change Programme. It was indicated that Phase one focussed on consultation with a range of key stakeholders the outcome of which would be considered in autumn 2013 when options to determine how the Change Programme would be progressed would be examined.
An indication was given of a number of options which would be pursued including:-
(a) encourage and support others to take on and/or deliver services with a focus on local solutions;
(b) optimise the use of technology and the associated flexible working opportunities for all employees and, in so doing, significantly reduce accommodation costs and impact on the environment.
In commenting on potential risks to the Council the Executive Member indicated that the risk to the Council of not embarking on the Change Programme at this stage would be considerably greater. In order to mitigate such risks reference was made to such areas as transforming management practice and working more efficiently across the Council; improving the use of data and information and enhancing commissioning practice to meet customer needs; working co-operatively with partners and communities; maximising the use of technology; and reducing the building portfolio to minimise property costs.
ORDERED as follows:-
1. That the Executive Member for the Change Programme be thanked for the information provided.
2. That an update report be submitted to the Board in September 2013.