Radical plans from Suffolk County Council to reduce its billion pound costs by 30% by embracing privatisation and becoming an "enabling authority."
The Guardian reports:
Ultimately only a few hundred people could remain directly employed by the council, primarily in contract management. At present, the council employs around 27,000 people, 15,000 of whom work in education, which is set to be taken away from local authority control as the government converts schools to academies and free schools. Many of the remaining 12,000 could face either redundancy or be transferred to a social enterprise or the private sector.
The council says it wants to withdraw from directly providing public services in order to reduce the local authority's "size, cost and bureaucracy and build community capacity to enable Suffolk citizens to take greater control of their lives."
The full report is here. (Click on "New Strategic Direction – Main Report.") It reckons on Government grant being cut by 25% over the next four years – with perhaps 6%-12% next year alone. That would mean needing to find savings of between £14 million and £27 million.
One item that has got them off to a good start:
The Government has announced that the Comprehensive Area Assessment will be scrapped and the burden of inspection will be hugely reduced and eradicated where possible. The Audit Commission has been abolished (from 2012) in a clear signal that Government does not believe in
inspection as a tool for transformation and indeed, that the substantial numbers of people employed in what Government sees as an ‘industry’ will also be reduced. In 2009 inspection and statutory returns cost the eight councils in Suffolk £6m to service of which Suffolk’s contribution was £2m.
But the big idea is "Divestment." A lot of detail is provided on the mechanism for retaining democratic accountability but there is no denying how it would mean a big change:
The Suffolk County Council of the future will not be focussed on providing services in the way it is currently. It will facilitate others to provide services to meet local need. Over the last decade
this process has been ongoing. Many council services are outsourced through formal contracts and partnerships. The fact remains however that the Council still exercises considerable control over the way in which money is spent. It determines people’s needs and decides how those needs will be met. It provides directly or under contract many of the services that people receive, taking responsibility for ensuring standards and driving improvements.
This level of control has led to rising costs in the processes associated with assessing people needs, and improving services. In some councils, as much as 50% of the budget can be spent deciding what to do with other 50%. Central Government improvement initiatives have led to an industry of target setting and inspection that can no longer be afforded in the current climate. Moreover the effect of this compliance culture has been to stifle innovation amongst providers and
frustrate service users who have little real impact in securing the services that they need.
An example from Essex is included to illustrate the approach:
Essex Cares Ltd: as a result of increasing personalisation and a pilot of personal budgets in adult social care services, Essex County Council decided their services needed to become more flexible and less expensive to better meet people’s expectations. Following extensive consultation with service users and three years’ work, Essex Cares was launched in July 2009. It is a local authority traded company that provides community support/enablement; employment and inclusion and equipment services for adults. It provides support to around 100,000 people in Essex. This means:
• Staff were TUPE’d and remain part of the local government pension scheme.
• Essex County Council is currently the main shareholder
Essex Cares is still developing and is looking to become more commercially independent. So far it is considered to have:
• made a profit in its first year (beyond savings targets)
• increased morale and motivation through having greater control and flexibility over its services
• received positive feedback from service users and their families
The council is keen that outsourcing or "divestment" should be part of the Big Society. They want to make sure that social enterprises are able to pitch to take on the running of services as well as private companies. It says:
The community is developing its view about the Big Society and what it means for them, how they could be involved and engaged. Suffolk is fortunate that the range of organised community activity reflects the vision of the Big Society, i.e. many small scale endeavours with strong local roots and engagement. This does however create a challenge to engaging these communities to do more. It is here where district and parish councils and, in particular, councillors in their enhanced role will forge the links the council needs long-term to facilitate community leadership, without swamping them in bureaucracy or adding in additional cost. It will also redefine our relationship with agencies which have expertise, creative ideas and capacity in community engagement.
Services planned for outsourcing in the first wave are:
• Transactional property
• Suffolk traded services
• Employment enterprises, learning and careers advice
• Home First
• A record office
• Independent Living Centres
• Highway Services
• Country Parks
• Economic Development
• Youth clubs, and Integrated Youth Support and Outdoor Education
• Early Years & Childcare, including Children’s Centres
• Home Shield Plus
• Hate Crime Service
Some Council services will be discontinued or will only be continued without subsidy. But the main story will be of the Council continuing to ensure services are provided but not providing them itself. Outsourcing is well known but applying the policy in such a rigorrous systematic and flexible approach makes the Suffolk apporach of wider interest.
To give a sense of the potential scale of the whole thing here is Suffolk's list of council services (which includes some provided by district councils.):
1. Abandoned vehicles
2. Accommodation for Vulnerable People
3. Admin support
4. Adult Learning
5. Animal welfare
6. Archaeology Services
7. Archives Museums and Galleries, including Suffolk Records Office, Archaeology Service
8. Area Highway Services
9. Asset management
10. Beach Huts
12. Building control
13. Business and Technical Support Services
14. Business Continuity
15. Caring for Children and Young People (Educational Welfare)
18. Children's Centres
19. Coastal erosion
21. Community Development
22. Community Safety
23. Conservation & design
26. Countryside and Environment Services, including promote conservation, landscape ecology services, country parks and recreation sites, AONB, SSSI, collecting hazardous waste, monitoring closed landfill etc.
27. Cultural services
28. Customer Rights
29. Customer services
30. Data protection & FOI
31. Democratic services
32. Design & print
33. Development control
34. Development Control
35. Domestic Violence support
36. Drug & Alcohol support services through Suffolk DAAT
37. Early Education and Childcare
38. Economic Development
39. Electoral Services
40. Emergency planning
41. Engineering services
42. Environmental Management
43. Environmental protection
44. Facilities Management
45. Fair Access to Care Services
46. Family Carer Support
47. Finance, Accounts, Accountancy, treasury management, insurance, 151 officer
48. Fines & charges
49. Fire and Rescue
50. Fly Tipping
52. Grounds Maintenance
53. Health & safety
54. Health Improvement
55. Highway Network Improvement Services
56. Home to School/College Transport
57. Homelessness & housing advice, including homelessness prevention as well as a reactive service
58. HomeShield / HomeShield Plus
59. Housing enabling, including delivery of affordable & social housing
60. Housing management
61. Housing Provision
63. Information on Suffolk Records Office, Country Parks, Sport & Leisure, Tourist Information etc.
64. Internal audit
66. Land charges
67. Legal services
68. Leisure Facilities
71. Local land charges
72. Older People Support Services, including Home Care, Day Care,
Respite Care, Residential Care, Community Transport etc.
73. Outreach and Development; arts, heritage, sports & play
74. Passenger Transport Services
75. Performance management
76. Pest control
77. Planning control
79. Port Health
81. Project Management
83. Public Conveniences
84. Racial Harassment & Hate Crime service
85. Registrars and Coroners
86. Residential Home Services
87. Risk management
88. Road Safety services
89. Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults
90. School Admissions
91. School Governors
92. Schools Library Service
93. Schools, including admissions, education awards, school trips and visits, exclusions, caretaking and cleaning, school catering, school music service etc.
94. Scrutiny and Monitoring
95. Services and support for those with physical, mental and learning disabilities etc.
96. Social Inclusion & Diversity
97. Specialist Education Services, including Home Education and support for Special Educational Needs
98. Specialist Support for People at Home
99. Sports Development
100. Strategic housing
101. Strategic management
102. Strengthening Communities to include Cohesion and Social Inclusion.
103. Suffolk Children's University
104. Suffolk Fleet Management
105. Suffolk Highways Contracting
106. Supporting conditions for economic development, helping businesses/people grasp the opportunities and getting external funding.
107. Teacher Recruitment
108. Traded services
109. Trading Standards
111. Vulnerable Children & Health Services, including fostering and adoption, support for families/carers of children with SEN, support for Looked After Children and Children Leaving Care etc.
112. Waste disposal, recycling
113. Youth Support Services, including clubs and activities, drop-in centres, support in schools etc., youth offending