Thursday, July 08, 2010

The shape of things to come

I repeat here the text of an email sent to all Darlington Borough staff by the Chief Executive yesterday;

This financial year

You will remember, you were updated last month about the loss of £1 million of grants. Cabinet will be meeting later this month to consider proposals to reduce the 2010/11 budget. Once proposals are fully developed they will be communicated to you.

Planning ahead for next year

Last month the Government announced its emergency budget and signalled significant reductions to public spending including an indication that grants to Local Government could reduce by 25% over the next four years.

We will not know the exact level of reductions or when they will happen until October this year, however, what is very clear is the level of savings the Council will have to make are far greater than we expected when we set the budget in February this year.

In February, we thought the Council would have to save a further £11 million, the figure now is more likely to be £22 million over the next four years, it is also likely that a major element of the saving will have to be made in the next financial year, therefore, we are starting to develop plans to save £11 million next year.

To put this into context our controllable gross budget is around £107 million, so we face a massive challenge. The approach we planned to transform the Council to become sustainable in the future as set out in the new business model remains, however, the size and speed with which we need to make savings means the emphasis of the approach will need to focus on large savings which will inevitably mean significant reductions to services as well as efficiency savings.

The challenge for the Council will be tough and we will keep you informed on a regular basis.

Making swingeing £1 million cuts in year will be no easy task, and the Council has no room for the usual consultations about budget changes. As you can see from the email, next year looks far more fraught, if the ConDem budget is to be believed. We are entering a period of cuts to public services unprecedented since the 20's, immediately before the Depression took hold. This is an ideological attack which owes more to the far right's desire to reduce the role of the state to a rump, rather than anything to do with the economic situation. The LibDems of course are fellow travellers, and it will it seems put up with anything if they can wangle a voting system which benefits them.

People in Darlington can be assured, however, that whatever the Coalition may throw at us, the Labour Council will make the right decisions to put the needs of residents first, especially those most in need.

A final note - I trust that this all puts into context the reason why the Council simply couldn't agree to consider waving goodbye to £80,000 (plus other benefits) via an unsecured loan to the Forum. No-one doubts the value the Forum adds to the town, and the Council has in different ways done a lot in recent years to help the enterprise. I hope that another way can be found to keep the Forum in business.


Anonymous said...

I would rather keep my "Bin Men" than a privately owned music social club!

There are plenty of other music places to practice, just because this one has a few Council "friends" and the Echo's editor on the board along with all the other usual suspects!

Jobs not Jazz

Anonymous said...

perhaps as a way to reduce the money wasted at DBC all Council funded telephone lines, broadband, blackberry's and providinding each one a computer should be down to the individual Councillors own allowances to provide from?

Just how much does it cost the tax payer each year to provide all the above for the 50 or so Councillors and the Council officers?

Darlington Councillor said...

On the latter point - we can argue whether a multi-million pound operation like DBC should fund its senior staff to have Black Berries and provide laptops which can be used securely at home - personally I think it should.

Councillors are another matter. Again, on a personal level, I came to the conclusion last year that it was wrong for the Council to pay for my broadband and laptop, which is why I cancelled the council line and have broadband and a laptop now at home at my expense. I know some other councillors have taken similar decisions.

As for my Black Berry - this significantly improves my efficiency, as it allows me to reply to emails and take decisions as they arise, rather than wait til I get home. I take the point, however, that it is one small element in the council's spend that will need to be reviewed - believe me, the scale of the cuts we are facing are well, well beyond the solution of some tinkering with the Democratic Services budget and the like.

Here's a phrase that I will be using over and over again over the next few months as the council, its partners and local residents square up to the full scale of public sector cuts - nothing will stay the same.

If that means, on a very small scale, that I lose my BlackBerry or pay for one myself - so be it.

james said...

Lambeth Council are taking an interesting approach to dealing with the weight of spending cuts - treating the local authority as a co-operative and involving council staff, other public sector organisations operating locally, and the general public in how the effect of the savage cuts can be lessened (

Perhaps we need a similar approach in Darlington?

Anonymous said...

Seriously Nick you say "If that means, on a very small scale, that I lose my BlackBerry or pay for one myself - so be it."

Pay yourself I honestly believe if you need instant contact a cheap phone on pay as you go with a £10 allowance per month will do like everyone else, if you chose a blackberry or similar it should come from your allowance many will be shocked to know blackberry's average £50-60 a month each with an internet tarrif, unless they have drastically come down in running cost since my FoI into them.

No decission is that important everyone there needs them!

What about Royal MSG or Royal Harrogate Hill do they have a computer each and 2 extra BT lines?

I do know of some Fib's who too have given up their phone lines but then again it is them who have sold us out for the taste of power and should take any cuts like "good little fibsters" on the chin and stick to doing what Davey tells them.

To quote Question time last night, the Fibster was asked "it has been 90 years since you were in power, do you not worry it will be another 90 till you do again"

...silence followed for a few seconds ;)