Councillors agree to revise savings list
Members have agreed that the list of future savings approved at a meeting earlier this year must be revised.
They were told at yesterday's Full Council meeting that the Authority will have to save £415,000 in 2018/19 in order to cover the structural deficit (the ongoing shortfall between income and expenditure).
Chief Finance Officer Andy Brown said that the savings plan for future years set out at the March 7 2017 meeting would form the basis of future planning, adding the caveat that these savings were set at a "moment in time" and that "time has moved on, things have changed".
The list of savings agreed on March 7 is as follows:
Future changes to Fire and Rescue operations with Cornwall Council arrangement £20,000
Disposal of Wesleyan Chapel £20,000
Change our C&IOS LEP engagement £23,000
Future changes to operational arrangements of Council Leisure facilities £50,000
Reduction in Corporate Governance service £31,000
Negotiate the use of Better Care Fund £60,000
Change delivery of youth participation and reduce discretionary spending £50,000
Total Planned future reductions £254,000
However, Andy said there would still be an estimated shortfall of around 160,000 even if the above savings went ahead.
"That list needs to be reviewed, revised and updated but there is still a gap that needs to be found in terms of balancing the 2018/19 budget," he explained.
He also reminded Members of the current situation, saying that "we are still in crisis management for budget monitoring".
He added: "The priority has been the closure of the accounts, we have limited resources and that's reflected in a council this size... Senior managers have not had detailed budget monitoring to be able to track their budgets or track savings."
However, he said the situation was improving and that the budget monitoring process will begin formally at the end of this month.
Members agreed that the March 7 list of savings must be revised, with Cllr Marian Berkeley saying she was "open-mouthed" when reading it. Cllr Robert Francis also pointed out that the Wesleyan Chapel is once more being used as Council offices.
Cllr Francis also took issue with Andy's statement that senior officers would begin looking at their budgets for this year at the end of this month.
He said: "That worries me enormously. I know that there are difficulties and I have sympathy that there is not a robust situation in place that makes it easy for them to monitor their budgets but I'm sorry, they can't start the process at the end of this month.
"We have a lot of important decisions to make in December and they need to be burning the midnight oil now and making sure that they know exactly where they are with their budgets ready for the meeting with [Andy Brown] at the end of this month and make the best effort to be sure they are on top of their figures for this year.
"I know it's difficult but it's imperative that that is done please... I think it's important because the Members around this table have a lot of difficult decisions to make in December that the officers also come up with their refreshed ideas for cost savings and indeed for revenue opportunities so that it's not just the Members doing this."
He added that all Councillors have to think hard to come up with some innovative ways of dealing with the budget deficit that will also be palatable to the community, to which Cllr Dan Marcus later said: "I don't think the decisions we make are going to be palatable to the community... We are deluding ourselves if we think that is the case."
Cllr Fran Grottick pointed out that senior officers are monitoring their budgets and being careful; the difficulty has been in tabulating the budgets because the finance department is still closing the 2016/17 accounts.
Cllr Francis responded: "I was not in any way attacking our senior managers over this, I was just making it clear that this is what needs to be done. So please don't think that was my agenda."