For those who live in North Devon, there was an Extraordinary meeting of the full (Torridge) Council last night, on Thursday 9th October.
Members met to review and vote on proposals as to how services might be provided in the future to address ongoing reductions in funding from Central Government. Councillors heard that while considerable savings in excess of £1.1 million were already being delivered through a number of initiatives further cost reductions were needed to bridge the gap between this, and the £2.2 million total required by 2017.
Three options were presented side by side by Steve Hearse the Councils Head of Finance in a format that allowed Councillors to consider the varying costs, benefits and risks associated with each.
Following a debate ‘option 3’ was recommended for approval. Like the other options presented this set of proposals still envisages a reduction in staffing levels, but at a reduced number estimated at approximately 15 posts while with other initiatives still delivering £1.2 Million in savings over the next few years. This was presented as a lower risk and more sustainable way forward with a lower impact on the local economy.
Members voted almost unanimously for option 3 with 1 abstention. An amendment proposed by Councillor Collins was also passed which has tasked officers with looking at a costed feasibility study for a customer contact centre, improved online capabilities, new mobile ‘on the ground’ neighbourhood officers, and other new ways of working that evolved during the option appraisals. These will be presented at a future Full Council meeting.
The Leader of the Council Philip Collins states: – ‘this was probably one of the most difficult decisions that members have had to make in recent years. While the proposals under option 3 should see a balanced budget in the short term further savings will still need to be found. Some form of joint working with other Councils in the future is probably inevitable.’
Roger Johnson – Deputy Leader stated: – ‘This was democracy in action with all Members involved in deciding on a way forward for the Council. The road ahead will not be an easy one and significant savings still need to be found whichever option we chose. All options involve some staff losses but my hope is that these can be managed by voluntary arrangements as they have been up until now.’
Jenny Wallace – Head of Paid Service stated: – ‘This has been a difficult time for staff and Members with some of the other proposals seeing significant reductions in staffing levels locally and the impact that would have on families and the economy. However I am delighted that Members felt able to support option 3, which we felt offered the correct balance between savings, potential reduction in staff numbers while maintaining the quality and range of services that we provide as a Council. Officers will now work with Members to deliver the projects and initiatives contained in the approved proposals.’
‘We would also like to thank the consultants IESE and Ignite for their work and also South Hams and West Devon Council for their assistance. Some of the ideas now emerging as options for Torridge have come from the processes they are now looking to implement and we wish them every success with their new way of working.’
Apologies for shortage of images due to poor internet connection (again).