Savings and transformation projects that will help South Gloucestershire Council balance its budget in the coming years have been approved by the Cabinet.
The proposals added more detail to the outline set out in the 2018/19 Budget, which was passed by Full Council in February.
Although the council has made more than £80m in spending reductions since 2011, another £19.4m in further savings are needed as the money provided by central government continues to fall.
The Council Transformation and Savings Programme (CTSP) aims not just to reduce annual spending over the next four years, but also to change the way we work. Like an increasing number of councils across the UK, South Gloucestershire will now seek to take advantage of commercial opportunities to raise our own funds. By being more self-sufficient, we can better protect front-line services.
Work has been undertaken to benchmark how much South Gloucestershire Council spends on delivering its services, compared to other, similar authorities. There are areas where we spend more than others for the same services and so based on this learning, the CTSP will help us deliver better value for money.
The CTSP outlines how the council will meet the future funding challenges by better managing demand for services; delivering services more cost-effectively to ensure value for money for council tax payers; and generating income, without having to rely on residents and businesses paying more.
For example, many council staff have expertise that could be ‘traded’ in the private sector. The CTSP will seek to offer some of our services over and above the support we provide to residents in need, on a commercial basis.
We will also look differently at alternative, long-term uses for surplus land owned by the council, instead of simply selling it off for a lump sum, particularly where there are options to invest for community regeneration, or to make a return in the form of rent income.
We have seen rapid increases in demand, particularly within adults and children’s social services. There are opportunities, based on best practise identified at other councils, for us to better manage future demand, including by reducing our reliance on the most expensive residential care settings. We want to build capacity in South Gloucestershire to provide local alternatives that lead to improved care.
By making changes to our ‘front door’ processes, we can reduce the number of people unnecessarily on waiting lists and the amount of time those who need help are waiting for it and support more people to lead independent lives outside of residential placements.
Leader of the Council, Toby Savage, said: “We are committed to delivering on our priorities; to drive up educational standards and to improve South Gloucestershire, our home, as a place to live and work. We know we need to do that with less money, so if we are to meet the needs of our communities, we need to deliver better value for money.
“We are proud of the high quality services that residents tell us we deliver, but we know we can be more cost-effective. There is best-practice we can learn from elsewhere and with the help of our dedicated staff, we can meet our goals by changing some of what we do and how we do it.
“Where there are potential impacts, for residents or for staff, to the way services are delivered or peoples’ work for the council, we will of course consult with them. Their input and ideas will be taken into account as we are presented with options and decisions in the future.
“The most important thing is that we are planning now to make savings in the future. By taking the time to plan and do the work for the future, we avoid the need to make sudden cuts like other councils have been forced to do.”