Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet has today (Tuesday) agreed proposals to fund a £5.5m redirection of cash to children’s services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The proposals will now go forward as recommendations to full council on 17 October 2019, and subject to final approval will mean significant ‘investment in children’ can be prioritised in the city now and in future years, following an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted earlier this year.
Consultation took place between August 12 and October 3 – extended from an original September end date - with £5.5 million of savings consulted on with residents, businesses, members and community groups all inputting into the final proposals that will be put before full council.
The consultation was also scrutinised at a number of citywide overview and scrutiny meetings. As part of this consultation and as a result of working with the community and listening to alternative ways savings could be raised, three areas set out in the original proposals in August will change. These include:
- Streetcare and Greenspace restructure - a series of revised proposals have been developed that seek to address concerns raised from a number of stakeholders about the condition of the city’s main parks, maintenance of highway verges and public open space, fly-tipping response times, weed spraying, sweeping and street cleansing. The saving has been reduced by £640,000 meaning an additional 33 full time equivalent roles have been introduced into the revised structure.
- Governance Division restructure - the original proposal included the merging of three teams within the division and a staffing reduction of 4 full time equivalent roles. Concerns were raised regarding the proposed structure particularly whether the combined team would be able to offer an appropriate level of support. We have listened to alternative proposals and amended to deliver an alternative structure.
- Restructure in Audit and Fraud - the original proposal included the deletion of one post within the Fraud team. Following consideration of consultation feedback and a review of the scope of activities, additional income can be generated through the retention of the post. It is therefore proposed that this post is retained and the savings requirement will be met through the additional income generated.
Through the proposals, there was an expected net reduction of 162 jobs and the deletion of 86 vacant posts. Additionally it is proposed to create 138 new jobs in children’s services, reducing the overall number of job losses.
Cllr Abi Brown, leader and cabinet member for corporate resources, strategy and partnerships said: “Investing in children is our number one focus - both now and for the future. You simply cannot run a half billion pound business that has seen a sixty eight per cent reduction in funding without it meaning that you have to take tough decisions. While this has been an extremely difficult time for staff, it has been imperative that we take decisive action to manage the business and meet the challenges that we need to as well as meeting our legal duty to deliver a balanced budget.
“£17.7 million of management actions have been brought forward including £4.4 million of capital receipts so that we can directly tackle areas such as the increase in children in care, special education needs transport and schools funding. It is not easy but it’s vitally important that we are responsible to the 886 children in our care and those who look to the council for help and support during their time of need.
“My thanks go to all those that have taken time to provide their views on the proposals. I hope the revisions show that we have also listened and worked with residents, stakeholders, staff and elected member colleagues to take on board their comments and concerns.”
The recommended proposals build on a budget which already sees £17m in savings being made in 2019/20 and £194m of savings made across the city council in the last eight years.
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