As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m addressing some of the ‘50 ways to save’ kindly recommended to all councils by the Department for Communities and Local Government. I’ve already looked at the no-brainers. In this post, let’s look at some of the big things on the list and what we’re doing already – just so you know we haven’t been twiddling our thumbs when it comes to saving money…
Suggestion one: ‘Share back office services’
We are in regular dialogue with other local authorities in the region to share back office services. We’ve already set up the Central Midlands Audit Partnership, to share audit services with South Derbyshire District Council. Meanwhile, our ‘one Derby, one council’ programme has centralised all back office services – admin support, communications, policy and research, performance management, finance, IT, HR and so on – meaning there is no duplication in these areas. I’d say we are pretty lean and mean, then, and tackling this one already.
Suggestion two: ‘Community budgets – bring staff and money together’
Derby has always been good at co-operating with other public services in the city; it’s one of the reasons we used to get the maximum four-star rating under the old inspection regime. We’ll continue to do that, no doubt, as the government introduces community budgets. Already, for example, we’re teaming up with other organisations to deliver a Priority Families programme, focused on getting children back into school, reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour, and putting adults on a path back to work – a programme that will save money in the long term by, for instance, reducing the number of children taken into care or custody. Again, then, I’d say we’re already addressing this suggestion.
Suggestion nine: ‘Get more for less by improving procurement’
When it comes to procuring stuff, we use a process called ‘category management’ to group goods and services together so that we can proactively manage and plan requirements across the Council. We are also collaborating with other organisations where we can; one current software purchase involves six authorities, while our highways maintenance sub-contracts are being awarded jointly with a neighbouring authority. Our energy has been procured collaboratively for a number of years.
So I think this ticks off suggestion ten, too – ‘buy together’. We make extensive use of contracts awarded by public buying organisations such as the Government Procurement Service and Eastern Shires Purchasing (ESPO). The use of these contracts reduces the time spent on procurement exercises and allows for ‘bulk buying’ and price reductions.
So we’re doing our bit to put the screws on the private sector in a time of recession!
Suggestion 15: ‘Encourage direct debit and e-billing for council tax’
We have done a number of campaigns to encourage people to switch to direct debit and e-billing, and of course we have introduced a new-look website to make it much easier for people to pay for things and report things online. We offer five monthly payment dates and we offer 10 and 12 monthly instalment plans. A weekly plan is also available so that all budgets are catered for.
The result is that the number of people paying by direct debit and online is increasing – however, if you’re reading this and you still pay by cheque or in cash, please switch now! You’ll save yourself time and money. Details of how to do this are on our website.
Suggestion 16: ‘Better land and property management’ – we’re well aware of the need to make sure our land and property supports our services and helps to regenerate Derby. We regularly review our property portfolio; a recent review identified 12 properties for sale, which could generate more than £2m. We also work with other public sector bodies through the forum of the Derby Property Alliance to identify how we can share buildings; at the Council House, for example, we’ll soon have Derby Homes’ back-office staff on the third floor and some of their advisors in the customer service area, as well Public Health staff on the first floor. That leads us nicely onto…
Suggestion 17: ‘Hot-desking, estate rationalisation and sub-letting’ – all staff hot desk at the Council House, and the refurbishment has enabled us to move staff from 10 office buildings into one. Previously the building accommodated 500 staff but now it has the capacity to accommodate up to 2,000 people through initiatives such as hot desking, flexible working and homeworking. We’re now embarking on a city-wide rationalisation of our properties, with a view to reducing the property portfolio by over 70%. So I think we’ve got this one covered!
Suggestion 27: ‘Cut spending on consultant and agency staff’ – as part of our vacancy control strategy, we are closely monitoring the use of consultants and agency staff. As a result, the use of both agency staff and consultants is falling. It is something we monitor at a local level and a corporate level, and our trade union colleagues regularly challenge us on this, so I expect the downward trend to continue.
Suggestion 29: ‘Cut spending on head hunters and expensive adverts’ – we’ve increased our use of online advertising and reduced the number of print adverts we place in the national press.
Suggestion 34: ‘Stop translating documents into foreign languages’ – a difficult one, this, but basically all documents are provided in English either in hard copy or online. Only in exceptional circumstances will a document be printed in a language other than English; for example our waste and recycling booklet was printed in eastern European languages for a specific community that was having difficulty recycling their waste effectively.
Suggestion 35: ‘Reduce the number of publications and media monitoring’ – our media monitoring is done manually by staff, at no additional cost to the Council.
Want to know how we’re addressing other suggestions on the list? Have a look at the other blog posts on this topic, or drop me a comment. Coming up next: the ‘ways to save’ that may not be all they’re cracked up to be…