Council cuts: Where the axe might fall

Town Hall cuts'Scenesetters-Town Hall King Street offices'Picture by Neil Silk  114313f'25/10/11
Town Hall cuts'Scenesetters-Town Hall King Street offices'Picture by Neil Silk 114313f'25/10/11

SECRET reports outlining plans to radically overhaul public services in Scarborough while saving millions of pounds were released yesterday.

The documents, which Scarborough Council tried to keep under wraps, reveal the results of a review carried out by Northgate Public Services, the private consultancy company that is paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to identify and implement cost cuts.

Town Hall cuts'Scenesetters-Town Hall'Picture by Neil Silk  114313c'25/10/11

Town Hall cuts'Scenesetters-Town Hall'Picture by Neil Silk 114313c'25/10/11

If the suggestions outlined in the report are implemented, the company said £9.5 million of public spending would be slashed in the Scarborough area annually.

Among the measures suggested were:

l That staffing levels across a series of council departments should be slashed.

l The council's entire human resources department and its 15 staff members should be replaced by a private company.

l Community trusts should be asked to do the jobs of paid parks and gardens staff.

l Pressure on parking spaces in Scarborough in the summer months should be exploited to make more money from parking fees and fines.

l Currently council-run facilities such as Scarborough Spa and sport centres should be run by private companies.

l The number of senior managers should be cut.

l A series of council-owned properties should be sold off.

Following a series of interviews with council staff which were carried out in December 2009 and January 2010 as part of the review, Northgate also stated that:

l Morale amongst staff in the council Customer First centres was "very low" and service was in decline.

l A “blame culture” existed amongst some council departments with workers accusing other departments of avoiding contact with the public.

l Some staff members refused to take calls from members of the public if they felt a call centre staff member should deal with it.

l Many leisure facilities in the borough are “poor and disjointed”.

The terms of the agreement between Scarborough Council and Northgate, which sees the council pay the company based on the savings they make, were also revealed yesterday.

In the original report, Northgate suggested that the council take on a “specialist transformation partner”, stating: “Many councils attempt in-house transformation unsuccessfully. Experience suggests that taking this narrow in-house approach is not effective.”

In the months following the review and its recommendations, Northgate was appointed as the council’s efficiency partner.

Following the publication of the documents yesterday, Hilary Jones, the council’s strategic director, said that not all suggestions made by the consultants would be implemented.

The human resources department, for example, will be restructured rather than outsourced, she said.

She added: “The consultants were invited to review our services and to challenge whether there are better, cheaper ways of delivering services. The council reviewed all the options put forward by the consultants, some of which were rejected.

“The recommendations which we have chosen to take forward will, we feel, bring the most benefit to the council and its customers.

“Like other councils we are facing significant financial challenges as a result of decreased Government funding and the impact of recession on our income.

“Our approach is to review everything we do to identify new, more effective and efficient ways of working that will deliver budget savings, while protecting services and service quality.”