As well as a current forecast overspend for 2023-24 of £33 million, we have a predicted shortfall of £39.5 million in our budget for the year ahead (2024-25) which has resulted in the savings proposals being put forward.
Today’s announcement and accompanying report, to be considered by Cabinet on Thursday 11 January 2024, sets out how we intend to make savings and set a balanced budget for 2024-25. The report includes proposals that will be subject to our Scrutiny process later this month (22 January 2024) before being considered further by Cabinet.
Announcing the report, County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis and Deputy Leader Councillor Simon Spencer said they had been left with no choice but to put forward the raft of multi-million-pound savings proposals which, if agreed, would affect many services used by thousands of Derbyshire residents.
In common with authorities across the country, we are facing budgetary pressures far greater than experienced before, due to factors beyond our control. These include dealing with higher than anticipated inflation and higher prices for fuel, energy and materials, meeting the cost of the national pay award set nationally but met locally, and the continued unprecedented increase in demand for vital adults’ and children’s social care services.
Last September we put in place a number of strict cost-control measures following our announcement of a forecast in-year (2023-24) overspend of £46.4 million, and this has reduced to £33 million.
Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis said:
“We have always prided ourselves on being a prudent, financially stable and well-managed council, balancing our books from year to year, maintaining a strong level of reserves and keeping council tax as low as possible, while providing vital, value-for-money services for our residents.
“However, we have made no secret of the fact that we are facing pressures like never before.
“We have been calling for more government support and for a drastic change to the way we are funded, especially in children’s and adults’ social care, to ensure we can continue to stay afloat.
“As recently as December we called for urgent additional funding and a pledge of intervention in the immediate future to fix the deeply broken and uncompetitive market for children’s residential care.”
Councillor Lewis added:
“No council leader ever wants to be in a position where they are putting forward cost-saving measures of this nature but along with councils up and down the country the pressures are huge, and simply beyond our control.
“We have to do everything we can to balance our books and ensure we continue to provide the services our residents rely on and deserve, and to do that we have no choice but to put forward these proposals which, if agreed, could help us to achieve that.”
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Budget Councillor Simon Spencer said:
“We have been working round the clock to ensure we can set a balanced budget but unfortunately we have no choice but to consider making savings by changing, reducing or stopping some of the services we provide.
“Over the past 13 years we have made £300 million of budget savings, and it becomes more and more difficult to find savings from already very lean and efficient services. All avenues have been explored and we will continue to do our best for the residents of Derbyshire, but unfortunately we have reached the point where we need to make those tough decisions. If these savings and efficiency proposals do not progress, alternative savings will need to be found in order to meet our legal obligations to maintain a balanced budget.”
Councillor Spencer added:
“It is too early to talk about job losses, and at Derbyshire we have a strong track record of doing everything we can to avoid compulsory redundancies through retraining, redeployment and leaving empty posts unfilled and that will continue. Unfortunately redundancies cannot be ruled out with the scale of the budget savings we have to make.
“This report has many stages to go through first and will be subject to close scrutiny. We will do all we can to mitigate any service changes and will continue to do our best for our residents.”
In the report released today, budget savings proposals put forward include:
- short breaks and day opportunities for people with a learning disability and/or who are autistic: proposal to redesign the current council-owned direct care offer of 5 short stay residential homes and 4 building-based day centres for people with a learning disability and/or who are autistic
- residential care and day care for older people: proposal on a redesign of the services we provide through the 16 council-owned and managed residential care homes and 10 building-based day care centres for older people
- extra care facilities for older people: proposal to redesign the current council-owned care and support delivery arrangements within extra care settings
- children's centres: review the delivery of children’s centres operations
- early help offer: review of children’s services early help service
- home to school transport policy: proposal to change policy for post-16 home to school transport to be in keeping with other local authorities
- disability residential short breaks: proposal to review short break and support services for disabled children
- household waste recycling centres material charges: proposals to restrict or charge for the disposal of tyres and asbestos and generate income by offering small businesses the opportunity to use the centres for a fee
- library and heritage strategy: library and heritage service proposal to achieve savings through modernising, rationalising and transforming the way in which we deliver library and heritage services
- County Hall review: proposal to review usage and consider options for County Hall (see separate report for 11 January 2024 Cabinet)
- cease the production of Derbyshire Now magazine: proposal for the cessation of the production of Derbyshire Now magazine
- countryside service reduction in grounds maintenance: proposal for reduction of grounds maintenance budget
Following the Cabinet meeting on 11 January 2024, our Improvement and Scrutiny Committee – Resources, will meet on 22 January 2024 to consider the budget saving proposals and provide feedback to Cabinet.
The budget-setting report will then be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on Thursday 1 February 2024 before going to Full Council when it meets on Wednesday 14 February 2024.
Many of the proposals, if it is agreed for them to go forward, will be subject to further Cabinet reports and then followed by appropriate public engagement or consultation before any final decisions are made.