Wirral Council has brought forward a broad range of savings proposals to streamline council services and help bridge a gap of £27million gap in next year’s budget.
The savings options total £20 million following the recent announcement of the draft Local Government Settlement and further funding from central Government.*
The council is legally obliged to set a balanced budget or risk Government intervention, and the measures being proposed are intended to put the authority on a stable footing for the long-term.
The following budget proposals will lay the groundwork for the council to provide fewer but much more high-quality services, all within its financial means, in future years and to allow for investment in those areas and services which will best benefit the people of Wirral.
At present no final decisions on any of the budget proposals have been made. The next step will be for members of the council’s cross-party Policy and Resources Committee to consider these proposals before a final decision on the budget will be made by all members of the council in February.
*This was updated 12 January 2022 following information about additional funding from the Draft Local Government Settlement.
Budget saving proposals for Children's Services 2022/23
Wirral’s Children’s Services are focussed on breaking the cycle of poor outcomes and encouraging and enabling families to bring up children in safe, happy, and secure environments.
The budget proposals for this area include:
PROPOSAL: Reduction of Historic Teachers Pensions Costs
The council is responsible for the costs of additional benefits awarded to teachers upon early retirement outside of the terms of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. This is a legacy financial commitment where the cost is reducing over time and can be achieved through a simple budget reduction.
PROPOSAL: Alternative Accommodation Provision for Children Looked After
In order to reduce costs associated with external accommodation providers, the council plans to partner with a Community Interest Company to open four children’s homes for up to 16 young people over the next 2 years.
Provision will include short-breaks, therapeutic provision for children and young people with learning disability/autism and mental health difficulties and expanding in-house provision at Willowtree for young people with disabilities. A registered housing provider will also be commissioned to offer care leaver accommodation.
PROPOSAL: Utilisation of Demand Reserve
This proposal is focused on service demand. A long-term saving will involve an alternative delivery model based on the Department for Education’s Family Safeguarding model. In the meantime, COVID funding will deliver the savings until the permanent model is in place.
PROPOSAL: Children’s Services redesign and posts deletion/closure
This proposal will look to achieve efficiencies within the Directorate through removal of vacant posts, redeployment, and service realignment.
PROPOSAL: Reduction in Adoption Orders
Wirral had a disproportionally high number of adoption orders in 2017/18 and 2018/19. This has impacted on the budget which funds the service via the Regional Adoption Agency. The funding formula for the regional adoption agency is currently based on the average number of adoption orders for the previous four years.
As these adoption order numbers pass out of the formula calculation over the next two years, Wirral’s contribution to the regional adoption agency will reduce.
Saving: 2022/23: £50k | 2023/24: £150k
PROPOSAL: Reduction in the Number of Looked After Children
In recent years, the overall children looked after (CLA) numbers in Wirral were higher than statistical neighbours. The numbers coming into care presently are more in line with neighbours. The cohort of children who joined during the earlier period are likely to remain in care until age 18, but as these pre-2019 children reach 18 we anticipate our CLA spending will reduce annually.
Saving: £564k (22/23)
PROPOSAL: Review of Youth Offending Service
This proposal includes the removal of a post from the Youth Offending Service structure which is no longer required.
Wirral’s Youth Justice Service produces an Annual Strategic Plan which is approved by the Youth Justice Management Board and Council. The plan sets out the priorities and action for future delivery. It is anticipated that the service can continue to meet its statutory responsibilities and prevention approach without the additional post.
PROPOSAL: Special Educational Needs (SEND) Transport Review
This option will include a service redesign which will look to reduce costs in home to school transport for children with SEND. The review will include changes to timings and routes, multiple drop offs, vehicle sharing and eligibility post 16.
PROPOSAL: Increase Funding for Placements from Health Clinical Commissioning Group and SEND
Social Care currently contributes the majority of funding (90%) towards residential placements whilst education contribute 4.45% and health 5.27% (as of April 2021). This proposal is seeking a more equal distribution of funding which will help secure this saving.
PROPOSAL: Redesign of Youth Offer
This proposal will seek to achieve savings through a review of current budgets and resource. It will include withdrawal of £100k from the Hive (in addition to the £100k withdrawn last year 2020/21), the removal of £100k from the Youth Service budget and deletion of one post from the Youth Service.
In 22/23 the Hive will continue to receive a £100k contribution from local developers.