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Posted by: John Brace | 9th September 2014

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

                                                       

Future Council Wirral logo

Future Council Wirral logo

Ed – Update 14:55 9/9/14 to fix 6 incorrect links to the budget options that was helpfully pointed out by a reader.

Yes, it’s another annual consultation on savings from Wirral Council that began yesterday and runs from yesterday to the 31st October 2014. What’s this one on? This is on £2.5 million of cuts that Wirral Council need to make in 2015/16.

Although the documentation refers to £4 million of budget options this seems rounded to the nearest million (the options total £3.75 million). Out of these options about £2.5 million will be chosen (two-thirds by total value).

Here are the documents and links:

Final Full Consultation Pack (this is a 21 page document which covers all options).

The options are then in various “themes” and are below by theme (I’ve also included the amount in pounds next to each option for financial year 2015/16 if that option is chosen).

This means some of the larger savings options are almost certain to go ahead which are those involving community libraries, the all age disability service, youth and play, preventative maintenance (highways and parks), Council Tax Over 70s discount and Girtrell Court.

These six options total £2.566 million of the £2.5 million savings required.

The other eleven options seem less likely to meet with public approval as they will be opposed by (in some cases) large sections of Wirral’s society. Some of them have already been rejected in earlier years following consultation such as charging for car parks at the country parks, school crossing patrols etc.

With the options below I’ve briefly included a sentence or two explaining what it’s about.

Customer Contact

Reduce library opening hours to four hours (10am to 2pm) with these libraries opened either two or three days a week. This option does not seem to apply to the four central libraries or combined libraries/One Stop Shops whose opening hours remain the same.

Delivering Differently Theme

Close four satellite youth centres & end funding Play Scheme.

Managing Demand

Remove 41 school crossing patrols.

Income and Efficiency

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Responses

  1. As with all Wirrals consultations,the decisions are already made! What about a cap on chief officers salaries and reduction of Councillors by at least a third!

    • Consultation is a legal requirement. If they made decisions without consulting the decisions would be open to legal challenge.

      As to Chief Officer’s salaries, these are the salaries as of 1/4/14. The highest is the Chief Executive at £135,341.

      The problem with a cap (for example politicians could agree a policy that the highest paid employee can only be paid 20 time or 10 times what the lowest paid employee is (obviously comparing on an hourly rate to iron out pt/ ft differences) is that it would only come into effect when the person in that post changed?

      Why? Because to do so otherwise and bring in different salaries immediately would involve the renegotiation of 22 employees employment contracts. You couldn’t do it without, yes ironically consultation first! Then the various trade unions would kick up a stink, and you’d get the whole “because I’m worth it” arguments. Chief Officers are also part of various organisations that would similarly make sure such proposals wouldn’t get implemented.

      However, there will be a reduction is some tiers of management when the 500 or so upcoming redundancies get agreed on the sheer practical basis of all those people will be line managed by somebody who will now either be twiddling their thumbs as they have less or no people to line manage or have to be redeployed elsewhere.

      The problem is processing all those redundancies will cause an extra workload for Human Resources (but then obviously less work for HR once they leave on payroll etc). Some might dispute the way they’ve left and take Wirral Council to an employment tribunal which again is more work for HR/legal.

      Boy, I sure I’m sounding like a manager here and yes I’ve line managed teams of people before. 🙂

      As to a reduction of councillors, you’ve got to remember councillors are effectively in a “part-time role”. So each ward (with three councillors) has the equivalent of a full-time politician between the three. Hence if one of the three goes on a four week cruise to the Carribean, the other two should pick up the extra work.

      Anyway how much councillors are paid is (yes nominally agreed by councillors themselves) but is the work of the shadowy Independent Remuneration Panel. It is to them that you should address your concerns as periodically they review whether the allowances should be recommended to be shifted up or down.

      It’s not compulsory for councillors to claim allowances they are entitled to. Many don’t claim certain allowances (such as car mileage allowance) that they could legitimately do so.

      You’ve got to remember, a little like MPs on top of the allowances councillors get paid, there’s an expenses system too.

      As far as I know the councillor’s expenses scheme (published as part of Wirral Council’s constitution) doesn’t stretch to second homes and duck houses, but other stuff.

      However what you’ve got to realise is a cap on chief officers salaries and a reduction in councillors allowances are not part of the Chief Executive’s budget options because:-

      (a) it would be very curious for the Chief Executive to propose cutting his own salary (and probably a conflict of interest to do so).

      (b) councillors have to vote on any changes to the allowances/expenses scheme and yes they don’t have to declare an interest when doing so.

      They don’t have to declare an interest in whether they pay Council Tax when they vote on the budget either.

      Personally I think the problem is not so much overpaid councillors but that we need a second tier of much more local political decision making.

      Things like the planning vanguards that are slowly moving through the bureaucratic hoops such as Devonshire Park, Unity in the Community, Hoylake Life etc are a step in the right direction, but are still some way off to being up and running.

      Personally I think Wirral needs a bunch of parish/community councils to act as a check and balance on Wirral Council, yet as whoever is in charge at Wirral Council would see them as a potential threat to their power base (therefore never agree to it you only have to look at the recent abolition of the Area Forums for that), unless somebody got a petition together which would force a referendum on the issue nothing’s really going to change on that score.

  2. […] Information revealed by Wirral Council in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Councillor Paul Hayes has stated that fifty-three of its staff are working on the “Future Council” project, which is the current consultation (closing on the 31st October 2014) to find £2.5 million of savings. The “Future Council” consultation launch was reported on by this blog earlier this month. […]


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