Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Subscription (£24,300)
Portfolio: Leader of the Council
This subscription gives Darlington a voice within negotiations and lobbying of Government on behalf of local authorities. In addition it entitles the Council to gain access to support and information that assists in improving services and delivering change and efficiency at a cost that could not be bettered by other types of provision.
[Reference: Cabinet papers, Item 6, paragraph 52(o)]
This proposal will be discussed at the Efficiency and Resources scrutiny committee [PDF document] on 18 March 2016.
FF 52o (Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Subscription)
In relation to the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) consultations, I have the following comments. The comments are mainly covering areas contained within the Efficiency and Resources Portfolio, of which I am a member of the scrutiny committee covering that portfolio.
Over the last several weeks as a scrutiny committee we have been looking at the finer details of each of the budget areas contained therein.
It’s worth mentioning that the financial position of the Council is a difficult one, it must cut 10.2m by 2020; by any standard that’s quite a challenge. Therefore, any decisions reached must be taken in the spirit of context, that it’s not what we would like to have, but what we can actually afford.
In this time of making difficult choices around where to spend money, partially in relation to Adult’s and Children’s services, we cannot continue to pay or indeed support services which in my opinion are nice to haves.
The Council is proposing turning off Darlington’s Christmas lights, removing funding for the Darlington Credit Union, cutting our grass less often and relocating the crown street library.
The cumulative impacts of these decisions could be severely damaging to Darlington strategic aim of becoming a leader in the tees valley.
I have identified some items of interest and intrigue that I feel fall within the ‘nice to have’ category and are as follows:
• £50,000 for the Community Engagement team, responsibilities of which could be absorbed into a senior officer’s role, perhaps the Darlington Partnership? As the Chair of Darlington’s largest community charity, we have not received any direct or indirect support from the Council. I understand the counter argument, that we’re big enough to support ourselves, however I know very little about what impacts that team has actually has on the wider community, therefore that money could be better spend, and be perhaps more appropriately invested to have a more tangible impact on the wider local community.
• Subscription to NEREO (North East Regional Employers Organisation) at a cost total of £16,176 per year, for advice a support with HR matters, Organisational Development and Employee Relations. This kind of skill set and support tool should be already lay within the responsibility of senior Council officers, at that level it is down to the individual employees to drive personal development and be aware of any corporate and legal trends in the industry.
• The Council’s Contribution to a private union of £ 43,304 per year. Private companies would not support this and I’m concerned that a public body does. I think employee representation is hugely important, but this can be achieved in a number of ways, either through voluntary support programmes or by the union member contributing more themselves. I know of hugely successful employee assistance programmes that work effectively without a huge financial cost to the business.
• The Council’s LGA (Local Government Association) Subscription £25,061 per year. I have seen no evidence that this subscription brings any value to the Council and in this modern age of digital communications, keeping in the loop about changes in local government can be easily accessed on a number of free forums and platforms.
Again, these comments cover areas contained within the Efficiency and Resources Portfolio, the MTFP is a complex one, however I feel the above budget lines were the most obvious ‘nice to haves’
Scrapping these none essential budget lines will save the Council a total, £134,541,00.