The Associate Director, Customer updated the Committee on the final closure of Phase 2 of the Our Futures Project. A workforce overview was provided and it was noted that of 85 posts had initially been identified at risk of redundancy, a total of 49 redundancies and 11 re-deployments were made. The figure of 49 redundancies was a correction from the figure of 59 stated in the report.
The Director of Finance reminded the Committee that the Our Futures programme incurred £3.009m one off expenditure in 2020/21 and was forecast to spend a further £2.585m one off expenditure in 2021/22 to implement the transformation programme. The majority of this spend was to fund redundancy costs (£2.611m) and consultancy support for the project (£2.066m). The programme was estimated to save £3.5m in 2021/22. However this excludes DSO productivity pay, Music Service and some grant funded posts for which the programme omitted the budget and thus nets down to an estimated £2.5m in 2021/22.
Members asked a range of questions relating to the programme, including whether the redundancies made were compulsory or voluntary. It was explained that all redundancies made were compulsory as those posts had been deleted from the new structure.
A Member requested that information regarding the current numbers of staff in comparison to those prior to the Our Futures Programme be provided and it was agreed that this information would be provided at the next meeting. Up to date information on current directorate/team structures would also be useful in providing accurate details to residents.
Concern was expressed with regard to the number of vacancies across the council and both the impact that this would have on delivery of services and retention of staff. The Associate Director, Customer stated that the delivery of Our Futures Programme was now being made within the context of a S114 Notice being issued. It was recognised that the instability caused by the S114 Notice may have prompted a number of staff to depart but looking forward the Council had to be realistic in that its financial situation meant that it would have to downsize and therefore assess how and what services could still be provided. Specific details relating to the number of qualified engineers currently employed within the highways department were requested and it was agreed that these would be provided.
The Chair sought clarification relating to the savings associated with the programme. In reports considered at previous meetings, the Committee had been informed that circa £5.2m savings were expected to be achieved and the savings figure was now projected to be in the region of £2.5m. The Director of Finance stated Council budget papers had estimated £3.5m and explained that colleagues had most likely assumed £1.5m savings as a result of agency cost savings following the implementation and delivery of the Our Futures Programme.
Referring to the approximate £2m consultancy costs that had been incurred by the Council for the Our Futures Programme, Members requested that information regarding the process for appointing the Consultants be provided.
A Member asked, now that the Our Futures Programme had been completed, whether the staffing structure was fit for purpose. The Director of Finance explained that the Council’s current financial situation meant that it was highly likely that further restructures would need to be carried out; albeit a different approach would be adopted in future.
Speaking under Rule 30, Councillor Sharif reiterated comments about the engagement of an external consultancy to oversee the Our Futures Programme and that it was difficult to ascertain the benefits of having done so.
A number of Committee Members stated that in their view, the Our Futures Programme had failed to deliver what was required to ensure the Council was a world class organisation. The Committee placed on record the importance of ensuring lessons were learnt from the Our Futures Programme in order to avoid a repeat of the same errors being made.
Resolved – That details of the report be noted.