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 Resources 2022/23
The Resources department includes all the professional services needed for the efficient running and sound financial management of Wirral Council.
The budget proposals for this area include:
PROPOSAL: One Stop Shop Establishment Review
The One Stop Shop (OSS) Network has reduced in line with a reduction in visitors to OSS outlets. Savings are achieved by the removal of vacant posts which are no longer required.
PROPOSAL: Review of Treasury Activity
Debt management and investment opportunities cover a wide range of activities undertaken within Treasury Activity.
This proposal will look at investment opportunities, including social and green investment aims. Additionally, there is also potential for new revenue streams from alternative investments. Both will be balanced against risk and current income targets.
PROPOSAL: Revenues & Benefits Review and Restructure
This proposal includes a full review to examine every aspect of the service and its processes, looking to streamline as much as possible and removing wasteful/bureaucratic tasks from the service. This process includes the expansion and introduction of new automated processes.
The savings will be realised by a mixture of removing vacant posts from the existing structure which can be released from the review, together with streamlining management structures and a limited offer of early voluntary retirement.
PROPOSAL: Reduction of Strategic Change Revenue Budget
Partial funding of business change can be supported through flexible use of capital receipts for transformation, and this can therefore release revenue budget whilst enabling the service to deliver major business change to the council.
PROPOSAL: Restructure of Procurement and Commercial Teams
Following an in-year staffing restructure that saw a central team of commercial officers restructured, this proposal seeks to remove the remaining budget for the team. Additional roles supporting income generation are in place within the relevant Directorates.
PROPOSAL: Review of Finance Team Structure
This saving proposal, of reducing resources within the Finance function, is presented in recognition of the changes being put forward elsewhere in the council that will impact on the support services required.
PROPOSAL: Cease Business Rates Contribution
It is proposed that the annual contribution to reserves to guard against successful appeals of business rates is halted.
PROPOSAL: Modernisation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Service
In order to improve the council's digital offer, Microsoft are being engaged to support a Digital Transformation programme. As part of this programme the ICT services will be modernised which will see processes digitalised and automated. This will enable savings to be made across ICT.
PROPOSAL: Review of Business Support Unit
With the move to working from home, less stationery is being purchased and there is less of a requirement to provide courier services. Savings will therefore be made within the Business Support Unit in lines with these changes in working patterns.
PROPOSAL: Review of Internal Audit – Income and Efficiencies
In addition to staff efficiencies the department will increase the selling of services to third parties, which will include new customers that have already been secured.
PROPOSAL: Reduction of Learning & Development Budget
This one-year temporary saving can be made as a result of the introduction of a new Learning Experience Platform, reduction in face-to-face delivery and optimising the apprenticeship levy. In addition to this the council have increased income which will be paid in 2022/23 tax year from the government apprenticeship start incentive payments which can be utilised to support learning and development.
PROPOSAL: Investment Statutory Override Pressure Removal
Councils had been granted a time limited special exemption on the way they account for financial investments. If this exemption was not in place, this would present a pressure for the council of an estimated £1m.
This had previously been included as a pressure as the time limit was about to expire. However, the time period has now been extended meaning that the pressure can be removed from 2022/23.