Agenda item

Chief Operating Officer directorate 2023/24 budget proposals


The Committee received an overview of the latest 2022/23 budgetary position for the Chief Operating Officer directorate. As at September 2022 the directorate had a net budget of £20.261m, comprising of a gross controlled expenditure budget of £23.757m and a gross income budget of £3.496m. As part of the budget for 22/23, the directorate set a savings target of £1.772m. The Chief Operating Officer reported that the forecast outturn for 2022/23 was an underspend of £1.366m which had been achieved primarily through holding staff vacancies and that the directorate was proposing £1.55m of savings towards the Council’s overall target for 23/24 for review by the Committee.

Members were reminded of the emerging issues during 22/23, which included challenges relating to IT and HR support services and mitigations put in place to address these were highlighted.

Key issues anticipated for 23/24 included -

Ø  Continuous necessity to find savings within an already challenged budget envelope while stabilising and improving services

Ø  Increasing cost of services, products and components. Costs are expected to keep climbing rapidly well into next financial year

Ø  Challenge in recruiting skilled permanent staff and not having to employ interim staff

Ø  Expectation on services to deliver higher standards of service with reducing resources

Ø  Competing with London Boroughs for skilled staff  as the grading of SBC is lower in comparison

Ø  Ongoing customer dissatisfaction / reputation damage as the council continues to resolve the current financial resources

Savings proposals that had been put forward for delivery to contribute towards the 2023/24 budget target were identified as -

Business administration, staffing and other budgets - £0.150m - combination of initiatives consisting of reduction in staff, cessation of some corporate outdoor events and the Slough citizen newspaper for residents.

IT Contract Savings - £0.505m - various initiatives including termination and / or reduction in licences and re-procurement of some IT contracts at lower cost.

Vacancy Factor- £0.500m - combination of initiatives consisting of reduction in staff, ongoing assessment of structures, reduction in telephony as a substitute for cutting staffing budget.

It was noted that none of the above proposals required public consultation, although internal staff consultations would be carried out as necessary.

A Member asked whether the 6% savings target identified could be improved. It was explained that although the target was developed prior to the Chief Operating Officer joining the Council, work would continue to identify further savings.

Concern was expressed whether it was feasible to deliver high level services with less resources. The Committee was informed that many services could be delivered through self-service and this approach was one that had been adopted by a number of local authorities. It was brought to Members attention that efficiency savings had been made in IT with no loss in quality of service experienced by users. Responding to why IT efficiency savings had not been implemented earlier, the Chief Operating Officer stated that whilst she was unable to comment specifically on previous work practices, the Chief Digital Transformation Officer had recently taken post and would continue to look at identifying and implementing efficiency savings.

Referring to proposed budget savings relating to vacancy factor, a Member queried the impact this would have on the currently understaffed fraud team. The Director of Finance explained that whilst the team were not understaffed, an assessment of the team was being undertaken by CIPFA, the findings of which would be reported to the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee in March 2023.

A Member asked as to what provisions would be put in place to ensure community engagement continued to take place given that funding for corporate community events  had been identified as a savings proposal. The Chief Operating Officer explained that  rather than focussing on specific key community events the Council would be seeking to have continuous improved dialogue with communities. It was brought to Members attention that discussions were also on-going with the LGA to carry out resident research which would assist in developing a Community Engagement Strategy.  

In response to what measures were in place to ensure that the Council maintained information/transfer of knowledge following the departure of interim staff, it was noted that there was an expectancy that this would be achieved via handover meetings and ensuring that records of relevant information was maintained across the whole council.

Clarification on the timeframe for implementation of the savings identified was sought.  The Chief Operating Officer explained that savings identified would be taken out of the budget prior to the next financial year ie 31 March 2023. It was agreed that information regarding the timeline for conducting the Equality Impact Assessments would be circulated to Committee Members. 

The Chair commended officers for the work that been carried out relating to the efficiencies that had been identified and recommended that the officers identify poor practise within all directorates and replicate the success achieved within the Chief Operating Officer directorate.  

Resolved –

a)  That the budget proposals for the Chief Operating Officer directorate 2023/24, as set out in the report, be noted.

b)  That poor practise within all directorates be identified with a view of replicating the target savings success achieved within the Chief Operating Officer directorate.  



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