County council set to review 600 senior management posts
County council chiefs in Norfolk are to review the roles of their 600 highest paid managers as part of the first phase of an overhaul to save �140m.Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox has set out a political blueprint to shake up the authority and slash costs ahead of an expected cut in government funding in the next three years.
County council chiefs in Norfolk are to review the roles of their 600 highest paid managers as part of the first phase of an overhaul to save �140m.
Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox has set out a political blueprint to shake up the authority and slash costs ahead of an expected cut in government funding in the next three years.
As well as a management overhaul Mr Cox wants to see the council at least halve the 101 buildings it owns, while also moving to 'hubs' open to the public in five areas and sharing services and buildings with other councils and public bodies such as the NHS.
Charges could also be increased to raise revenue and there could be a greater role to deliver services for the private sector or the council's own commercial wing - the Norse Group.
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And there will be a shift towards more flexible working and working from home for staff.
But opposition councillors fear the changes could see large-scale privatisations and create a council more remote from the public at a time when demand for services could peak because of the recession.
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And union leaders are seeking assurances that frontline services will not be hit.
The authority is setting aside �300,000 from a �3.4m organisational change reserve to appoint consultants to look at how the council is run and how services are delivered and the starting point will be looking at the jobs carried out by managers earning more than �34,000.
Mr Cox, who has produced a report to next Monday's ruling cabinet setting out his vision, also wants to devolve a raft of powers to town and parish councils to create a council that 'acts local, feels local and is accessible locally yet has the strategic grip on what matters in Norfolk and carries weight with regional and national government.'.
Council chief executive David White has also written a linked 'Norfolk Forward' report for the meeting detailing areas where changes could be realised.
'It is far reaching,' Mr Cox said. 'The changes are significant not just because of the financial situation cause by the downturn, but by the increasing demographic pressures being placed on our services and the rising expectations of the public.'
But he denied the authority was going to follow the lead of other Tory authorities such as Barnet in London, which is going for a 'no frills' approach and charging for anything beyond its basic services, or Essex County Council which last week announced it was privatising its social care departments.
'Contracting out our services isn't the solution, it's part of the solution,' Mr Cox added. 'It's not simply the case that we will go to an external supplier to provide everything.'
Lib Dem leader Paul Morse said Mr Cox's blueprint was 'strong on spin, but weak on substance' and he questioned the need for the consultants.
'I have no problem with the vision, but what I can't see is how it's going to be delivered,' he said. 'It seems like we are going to have further contracting out and if they are going to do that, they've got to improve their contract management because there have been problems with both social care and street lighting contracts.'
Many of the proposals bear a striking similarity to the council's single unitary bid.
But Mr White denied the changes were not 'unitary through the backdoor' and many followed an earlier review he had carried out.
'I would have looked at the overall structure of the organisation if there hadn't been the spectre of the local government review,' he said.
'As residents and businesses tighten their belts and curtail their activities in the face of the harsh financial climate and the continuing recession, it is only right and proper that they see their county council doing likewise,' he said.