City Council delivers £36m of savings

Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet will hear next week how, despite receiving the eighth worst financial settlement of all unitary authorities in England from the government, the council has delivered on its toughest ever programme of savings.

A report on the authority’s outturn for 2011/12 also shows that by focusing on essential spending only a £1.5m contribution to general reserves has been achieved and the repayment of temporary borrowing from earmarked reserveshas been accelerated. This has enabled the city council to be in a relatively strong financial position given the severity of the challenges faced. Continue reading

Staffordshire County Council predicts a £3.7m underspend

Stoke-on-Trents neighbours at Staffordshire County Council have today announced and underspend for 2011 – 12 of £3.7m.

The council’s strong financial position was detailed in a performance report presented to their Cabinet. The report provides further evidence of its drive to deliver value for money services to local people.

Departments cross the authority have spent less than budgeted for at the start of the financial year. The final figure will be confirmed in June alongside discussions about how best to use the underspend to deliver on the council’s priorities. Continue reading

Housing repairs £4.5m over budget but still award winning

While the Sentinel were reporting today that Stoke-on-Trent City Councils housing repair bill was £4.5 million over budget, Kier Stoke were publicising that had won a Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) award for its work alongside Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The company was announced the winner of the ‘Excellence in Working Together’ category for its project ‘Reigniting the Customer Experience’, at the TPAS central region finals. Kier Stoke ensured its responsive repairs service was both time efficient and cost effective, while meeting the needs of the local community. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Increases The Number Of Managers While Cutting Front Line Services And Staff

Since John van de Laarschot became the Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council in January 2010 we have seen some of the biggest changes and cuts in a generation in the city.

John came in to the city with not only excellent Local Government credentials, having improved the rating of Torridge district council in north Devon from 3 to 5 stars but also real world commercial experience having worked in corporate finance and running the South African arm of PepsiCo.

In june 2010 barely 6 months in to the job, John was quoted as saying

I think this organisation is top-heavy with management and I can’t defend that. I will weed out those who are not up for challenge and who don’t have an appetite to serve our customers.

In 2010 you would maybe have thought that true, with too many directorates and no less than 270 managers earning £50,000 + salaries.

The axe soon started to fall, in September 2010 announcements were made that the number of directorates were to be reduced and restructured removing 14 of the 37 Directors & Heads of Service, with the new streamlined structure having to be in place on the first working day of 2011, exactly a year to the day of John VDL starting.

Shortly after this the rest of the council workforce were put under consultation and were informed that 700 jobs were to go. The consultations and redundancies have been an almost constant feature within the City Council since then with a further 300+ jobs being earmarked for redundacy as the City Council struggles to meet its budget.

With all the cuts and restructuring over the past 15 months you would expect the City Council to be a leaner more cost effective and streamlined organisation, yet figures released today show that the number of managers who earn £50,000+ at Stoke-on-Trent City Council actually increased by 24 from 270 to 294 in 2010/11.

So during his first year in charge when he promised to weed out those who are not up for challenge, it seems that John has found more people who are up for the challenge rather than doing any weeding.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council tops the league of midlands councils at £99.41 when it comes to cost per head of population for employing £50k+ managers, this is almost £16 more than second place Leicester.

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said

It is disappointing to see so many middle managers at Midlands councils, particularly at a time when public sector pay is being restrained and low paid staff are being laid off. It’s not fair to demand that ordinary workers take a pay freeze or lose their jobs while more and more middle managers are enjoying generous remuneration. Councils need to cut back the bloated bureaucracies that have developed in town halls in recent years. Taxpayers in places like Stoke-on-Trent will be particularly disappointed that their local authority claims it has no alternative but to increase Council Tax but goes on to spend so much on employing so many high earners.

Just remember, council employees who are on a pay freeze and those that were made redundant, you‘re all in this together. Maybe his new £130k Deputy Chief Exceutive will improve the situation next year.

Update 11:50

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have issued the following statement to Pits n Pots

A council spokesman, said

The Tax Payer’s Alliance figures amalgamate staff annual salaries with one off payments, such as redundancy packages. This means that the figures do not reflect the true picture with regards to staff on an annual income of more than £50,000.

In response to the council statement, I have only detailed an uplift of 24 officers who earnt £50k+ in 2010/11 over 2009/10, the actual number of officers who earnt £50k+ in 2010/11 was 86 and as the TPA report and the Councils own accounts point out, 62 of these were due to redundancy payments moving the salary in to the £50k+ bracket.

 

Cost of Stoke-on-Trent City Council recruitment

Yesterday I wrote about how Stoke-on-Trent City Council have advertised 21 jobs with the specialist HR & recruitment company Penna and not one of the candidates found was offered the position they had applied for.

Today I am going to write about the literally eye-watering cost of these failed recruitment drives.

According to figures found in the City Councils transparency reports, Penna were paid £126,009.14 in 2011* and had just 21 jobs placed with them, that is £6000 per vacancy.

The councils spending data is particularly poor so it is not possible to say exactly how the money is broken down by role but of the £126,000

  • £45,761.60 Advertising
  • £7709.20 Interviews
  • £15,237.34 Expenses
  • £20624.54 Miscellaneous expenses
  • £36676.46 Printing, Works, Rechargeable Works, Repairs alterations, Section 106 & equipment and furniture

That is £126,000 of your money that could be used to keep a library open, help keep a swimming pool open or any number of services that are listed for closure in the Budget book.

The issue isn’t with Penna, who are well respected in their sector, but more with the City Council. If Stoke-on-Trent City Council are rejecting everyone of the 82 candidates that have been selected by Penna to go forward to interview then the person profile, job spec and brief must be wrong.

* figures are for only 10 months as the August transparency report is missing and December has not yet been published so the true figure could be around £150,000.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Live Budget Web Chat

Join Council Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez live on-line tonight from 5:30pm and ask questions about the proposed £24 million budget cuts for the 2012 budget.

 

Please use the chat form above to ask your questions and not the comment form below.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget Consultation Extended to 13 January

Councillor Sarah Hill has confirmed that the public consultation for the 2012 Budget has been extended from December 23 until 13 January.

In a comment let on Pits n Pots Cllr Hill said

Posted in Uncategorised | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader to hold live budget web chat

A live online forum will give residents the chance to pose their questions on this year’s budget proposals to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez.

Residents with suggestions, thoughts or concerns about the proposals are being encouraged to join the discussion which takes place online on Monday December 19, 2011 between 5:30pm and 7pm. Ҭ

Please use the chat form above to ask your questions and not the comment form below.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget Consultation Extended to 13 January

Councillor Sarah Hill has confirmed that the public consultation for the 2012 Budget has been extended from December 23 until 13 January.

In a comment let on Pits n Pots Cllr Hill said

Posted in Uncategorised | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader to hold live budget web chat

A live online forum will give residents the chance to pose their questions on this year’s budget proposals to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez.

Residents with suggestions, thoughts or concerns about the proposals are being encouraged to join the discussion which takes place online on Monday December 19, 2011 between 5:30pm and 7pm. Ҭ

Councillor Pervez, said

This is an opportunity for the city’s residents to let me know what issues are concerning them and to find out what people think of our proposals. I would encourage people to get involved with the discussion as the decisions we are making have an impact on everyone in the city. “¨”¨We want to involve as many people as possible in these decisions and by taking our consultation process into the 21st Century through the internet we can target a different group of people as well as our face to face consultations around the city.

The web chat follows the as yet unconfirmed extention to the public consultation period for the 2012 budget.

People can also submit their budget questions before the live webchat by emailing webteam@stoke.gov.uk. While not all questions will be answered live a response will be sent. If further information is required to provide a response, then an answer will be emailed on a later date. Questions should be about the budget proposals although other questions may be answered if time permits.

Councillor Pervez added

The council has been working hard to put together the budget for next year, in the face of fierce Government-imposed cuts of around £8m.

On top of this, we must deal with unavoidable cost pressures such an inflation, contractual staff increments, procurement and the payback for our capital projects totalling around £11m.

In our Mandate for Change, launched earlier this year, we said we would create a ‘great working city’. Our aim for this budget is to help to do just that, by saving to invest.

I am very much looking forward to hearing your views on the budget and the future of Stoke-on-Trent.

This webchat is an exciting opportunity for us as a city council to hear directly from the people who use our services and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to our budget consultation. Your participation is very important to us.

To become part of the discussion residents can access the forum on Monday by using the link below visiting and following the simple instructions.

 Pits n Pots ran the first Ask The leader web chat a little over 12 months ago.

More Dates Added To Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget Consultation

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have this morning announced that a further three dates have been added to the Budget 2012 public consultation.

The new dates and venues are:

  • Wednesday, January 3, 5pm to 8pm: Fenton Manor
  • Saturday, January 7, 10am to 2pm, Fountain Square, Hanley (on Hoppa Bus)
  • Wednesday, January 11, 10am to 12pm, Longton Market and Tunstall Market.

All of which are after the public consultation period closes on December 23 2011.

Probably just another mistake in the budget consultation.

Are We Really Being Consulted On The 2012 Budget?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council are currently running a ‘Consultation’ on the 2012 Budget with a number of events around the city. When you here the word ‘consultation’ you like to believe that you are going to be able to influence some of the proposals in the budget book.

Ian Norris has already been pushed down the FoI route with his request for information on the budget, with the response due the day before the consultation closes, giving him little time to do anything useful with the information, if it does get presented on time.

It seems that the decision to close the Wedgwood Memorial College has already been taken and just needs to be rubber-stamped by the Cabinet at their meeting on 15 December which is a day before the last public consultation event and over a week before the consultation closes on 23 December.

More worryingly it seems that some decisions on the budget are being made at meetings that don’t exist, 2-CE04 HR Initiatives, on page 22 of the budget book for instance, was, according the Business Impact Decision, Discussed and agreed at Cabinet on 6 October. Discussed at Labour Group.

Now if you check on the meeting calendar you will be hard pressed to find the cabinet meeting on 6 October nor any minutes to support the agreement.

Pits n Pots asked the City Council about this meeting and a spokesperson said

The meeting referred in the budget book was a closed ‘CAPS’ (Cabinet Agenda Planning) meeting not a cabinet meeting this was a mistake. 

So can we trust the information that is presented in the Budget Book, if this is a mistake, how many other ‘mistakes’ are there?