To consider a report of the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Stockport.
Earlier this year, in September, the Cabinet presented a series of proposals in response to the summer review of the Medium Term Financial Plan undertaken earlier this year. The review highlighted the continued uncertainty, complexity and volatility facing local government funding - presenting significant challenges for local citizens and their local public services. The Cabinet’s proposals were developed in line with the medium term strategy (fig.1) which was introduced in 2018 to frame the choices the Council will make about its budget, both next year and in future years.
Since this report there have been further developments nationally, such as the 2019 spending review which will inform the local government finance settlement expected to be announced in December
The Cabinet remain committed to engaging widely on proposals and this report includes an update on those draft proposals that fall within this Committee’s remit. Since they were originally presented to this Committee for discussion and comment, further development on proposals have been undertaken. The updated proposals presented as part of this report also now reflect further engagement, or where appropriate consultation, with partners, citizens and relevant groups. These proposals are being presented to Scrutiny for further comment before being considered by the Cabinet on 6th January 2020 for inclusion within the Budget.
The Cabinet are keen to seek views from Scrutiny on these plans ahead of decision making in January 2020. In order to enable broad engagement on Cabinet’s plans, Scrutiny Committees are receiving this report and suite of appendices relevant to their remit.
The Scrutiny Committee is invited to comment on the proposals and consultation results presented within the report relevant to the remit of this committee.
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The Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Resources, Commissioning & Governance (Councillor Tom McGee) and the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Stockport (Councillor Sheila Bailey) attended the meeting and submitted a report detailing a series of proposals in response to the summer review of the Medium Term Financial Plan undertaken earlier this year. The updated proposals reflected further engagement, or where appropriate consultation, with partners, citizens and relevant groups.
The following comments were made/ issues raised:-
Support Funds Business Case
· The allocation of £100,000 additional funding as a safety net during the implementation phase was welcomed.
· In response to a comment relating to the overall reduction of 31% in the amount available to spend on awards, it was stated that the service was being completely remodelled with a reduction in staffing costs and the creation of a new package of support that would provide an overall improvement in the service provided.
· The proposed use of the ‘support-focussed’ model that emphasised a person-centred approach as the delivery model for the new service was broadly welcomed.
· It was noted that those areas that would be most impacted by the proposals were the most deprived wards in Stockport. In response, it was stated that it was not a surprise that while every ward had someone who accessed the fund, it was the Priority 1 areas that used it the most.
· The increased use of furnished tenancies formed a key part of the solution as this allowed the Council to offset the cost of white goods and furnishings against housing benefit entitlement.
· The development of a single integrated fund would have the benefit of ensuring that applicants would not need to re-tell their story to multiple council teams or external partners.
· The ‘support-focussed’ model had originally been developed for use by Derby City Council and it was queried whether the success of this model could be replicated in Stockport in the light of the differences between the two locations. In response, it was stated that the demography of service users, being people in crisis, was the same and as such there was confidence that the model was transferable.
Public Realm Business Case
· A reduction of £150,000 in the budget for street cleaning would be achieved through not filling vacant posts and reviewing whether it would be necessary to fill future vacancies to deliver the required level of service. It was noted that the performance of the street cleaning service was 88% during 2018/19 during the time at which the vacant posts had already been carried by the service.
· With regard to the proposed reduction of £25,000 in the winter maintenance budget, it was stated that this proposal reflected the actual cost of running the service in previous years. However, it was stated that a contingency fund was available should the winter be harsher.
· The use of LED street lighting to both reduce costs and carbon emissions was welcomed.
· It was noted that a number of the responses from the consultation queried how local community groups could get more involved, and it was suggested that a report be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee detailing how the Council could encourage this approach to community responsibility.
Life Leisure Management Fee Business Case
· The business case suggested that some programmes may be provided in alternative locations and concern was expressed that this may result in some users no longer being able to access services. In response, it was stated that the change of location would not prevent any existing users from being able to access them, rather it was a management decision by Life Leisure to move certain programmes to another location in the same area to be delivered alongside other programmes which would make the use of the facility more efficient.
Balancing the Cost of Services: Phase 2 Business Case
· It was commented that the Cabinet should give serious consideration to any suggestion that fees or charges for outdoor sports facilities and pitch hire should be increased in the light of the significant health benefits derived to the community through maintaining affordable access to such facilities.
RESOLVED – That the report be noted.