Tim's Council Diary: You Can't Please All the People

22 Sep 2023
Money / banknotes (pounds sterling) in hand

I think I've been pretty consistent in explaining to people that the new Council administration had inherited a difficult financial position from the previous Conservative-led administration.

We have a budget this year funded by using reserves. We have a four year financial plan that shows the Council spending £18m more than it earns over that period, and running out of cash in year three.

And I've made it clear that that cannot last. When we get to a budget in February next year, we need a plan that does not have our Council running out of money within four years. We will then have a robust basis to work from, and then focus on improving our district, not keep looking over our shoulder at the shadow of impending bankruptcy (and it is an increasingly big shadow in many other authorities).

And a key part of that will be looking at our staffing and management. Making sure the management structure is fit for purpose, supports what the Council does (rather than what it did 5 years ago), aligns with a committee structure and protects every front-line, resident facing service we can.

I have to admit, I thought all Councillors had understood those challenges. It was therefore something of a surprise at Full Council on Wednesday to find I was wrong. I was moving a paper to create a reserve that would allow, if the Personnel Committee the following day agreed to do so, the discussion to be opened on "Transforming" the management structure, with the expectation that the reserve would give upfront money that would generate long term savings (or it would not be used). It took rather longer to win support for that position than I had hoped, in the face of opposition from the Labour Group, but we got there.

We need to be honest with ourselves, and get our expenditure in line with our income. That doesn't come from capital receipts - Government rules stop you selling stuff and putting the receipts into funding mainline expenditure except in a small number of exceptions. It comes from spending less, or earning more. I'm determined we will protect services and the frontline staff that deliver them as much as possible. But if we can get a saving from streamlining our management structure: we should be looking at that.

Still - the vote was won in the end.

And the following day the Personnel Committee, Chaired by the Leader of the Labour Group, voted unananimously in favour of the Transformation / Senior Management Restructure proposals.

Larry Ngan and Lib Dem Campaigners on The Leas, Folkestone

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Larry Ngan, Daniel and Fry with "Build More Houses" t-shirt on The Leas, Folkestone

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