Papers published for South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet meeting on 2 July include more detail on proposals to make savings over the next four years in order to balance the budget.
The 2018/19 Budget, passed by Full Council in February, included outline plans for the next phase of savings, with more information to be presented in July. 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.
We want to continue to deliver value for money for our community and continue to look at how we can provide high quality services most cost-effectively. Having benchmarked what it costs us to deliver services against similar local authorities, we have clarified areas where it should be possible to make savings. This does not mean every one of those services are currently inefficient or expensive, but there is scope to review current service specifications, or the way in which we organise ourselves.
The papers outline where the council can potentially make savings based on the principles of: Flattening future demand for services; delivering services more cost-effectively to ensure value for money for council tax payers; and increasingly importantly, generating income, whilst continuing to focus resources on our priorities.
In addition to options that would reduce spending, there are ways to increase income without having to rely on residents and businesses paying more. For example, many council staff have expertise which is highly sought after in the private sector, but we don’t currently always offer those services on a commercial basis.
We also have cash reserves which currently earn us low returns and we own land and buildings which could be doing more for us. Cabinet will look at proposals to bring in more money to fund our services by looking at these areas. For example, considering alternative uses of surplus land where there are options to reinvest for regeneration or to make a return in the form of rent income.
While grant funding from Government continues to be reduced, many of the cost pressures we face stem from demographic changes, leading to rapid increases in demand for support, particularly within adults and children’s social services. These pressures are not exclusive to South Gloucestershire, so we’ve asked other councils how they have successfully reduced demand. Based on this work, the proposals published today include reviewing our ‘front door’ processes to reduce the number of people unnecessarily on waiting lists and the amount of time those who need help are waiting for it; supporting more people to lead independent lives outside of residential placements; and looking at the way we can use Personal Budgets differently.
At this stage we have identified broad areas and initiatives that will help us achieve savings, but Cabinet will consider these and based on their decisions, more detailed proposals will be worked on.
While looking at making these savings and providing value for money, we will continue to focus resources on our priorities as a council in supporting the most vulnerable in society, raising educational attainment, and maintaining high quality street environment.