50 ways Eric Pickles says Derby City Council can save money ... and its response
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles sparked anger by publishing a document of 50 ways in which councils could save money to offset cuts to their funding.
Here, Derby City Council argues it has already implemented the vast majority of suggestions.
1 Share back office services with other councils or organisations.
We are in regular dialogue with other local authorities in the region to share back office services. The council's transformation programme has centralised all back office services meaning that, instead of having duplicate support functions in each department, these are now provided centrally.
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2 Reduce duplication and waste by enabling providers of public services to work together and share budgets.
We are working with partners to identify high cost families and work collaboratively to engage and work with these priority families.
3 Use transparency to create an "army of armchair auditors" who will identify waste.
We already publish details of spending over £500 and details of all contracts awarded over £30,000 on our website.
4 Tackle the issue of duplicate payments.
We conduct a quarterly report of invoices to check for duplicates. All large value invoices are checked using a system that flags duplicate invoice numbers.
5 Introduce greater financial controls on corporate charge cards.
We are currently piloting the use of corporate Visa cards, with 25 cardholders. We have learnt from the experience of other organisations with card programmes to develop a robust procedure manual designed to ensure that effective controls are in place.
6 Review the authority's spending controls.
The council already has different spending authorisation limits in place, which are appropriate for the nature of transactions being carried out and the level of seniority of officers.
7 Councils should tackle the issue of fraud.
We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption and, as such, have a number of policies and strategies in place that are designed to combat the problem. The council also has a well-established anti-fraud working group.
8 Claw back money from benefit cheats.
Benefit cheats are required to repay all overpaid benefit. We have a robust recovery procedure and apply this vigorously.
9 Get more for less by improving procurement.
Through a process called "category management", we have started grouping goods and services together in order to proactively manage and plan requirements across the council. We are also adopting collaboration where appropriate.
10 Use public buying organisations to facilitate collective buying of goods and services.
We make extensive use of contracts awarded by public buying organisations such as the Government Procurement Service and Eastern Shires Purchasing.
11 Stop scope for procurement fraud.
We have developed a Procurement Code of Conduct for employees and councillors. Proactive anti-fraud work is undertaken by the council's Internal Audit Service to identify potential procurement fraud.
12 Councils should utilise reserves creatively.
We regularly review our reserves to ensure these don't exceed required levels and to ensure the public receive value for money. The unallocated General Fund Balance represents the minimum level of reserves that the council should hold and any planned use of this reserve would be considered to undermine the robustness of the council's budget.
13 Improve council tax collection rates.
We take steps to distinguish between citizens who can't and won't pay. For those who have the means but refuse to pay, the full weight and range of recovery options are taken to maximise collection. Discounts and reliefs can be given to those unable to pay. We also continue to extend our range of payment options, including incentives for those who pay by direct debit.
14 Encourage direct debit and e-billing for council tax.
Derby City Council offers five monthly payment dates and offers 10 and 12 monthly installment plans. A weekly plan is also available so that all budgets are catered for. A number of e-campaigns to switch people to e-billing have taken place. This has seen a gradual increase in the number of households receiving their bills electronically.
15 Councils should close their cash offices.
We want to retain a cash payment facility within our main office. However, recognising the need to deliver savings, we have installed self-service electronic tills.
16 Improve land and property management.
The council's portfolio is reviewed on an on-going basis. Twelve properties are now for sale, with the potential to generate in excess of £2m for the council. The refurbishment of the Council House is allowing for the release of surplus properties.
17 Reduce floor space through hot-desking so that areas can be sub-let.
The refurbishment of the Council House has enabled the council to move staff from 10 administrative buildings into one. Previously, the building accommodated 500 staff but now has the capacity to accommodate up to 2,000 people through initiatives such as hot-desking, flexible working and home-working. The council has sublet part of the Council House to Derby Homes and is in negotiations with other tenants.
18 Open a "pop up" shop in spare office space.
We have offered the opportunity for "pop-up" presence to our public sector partners within the Council House.
19 Close subsidised council canteens.
Derby City Council does not operate a subsidised canteen. As part of the redevelopment of the Council House, the council has let the restaurant facility to a third party provider who will operate it on a commercial basis.
20 Cancel away days in posh hotels and glitzy award ceremonies.
Where possible, our staff use council-owned property for away days or other similar events. In relation to internal award ceremonies, the council values its employees and our most recent award ceremony was sponsored by Serco.
21 Open a coffee shop in the library.
Coffee shops are only financially viable in libraries with high footfall and long opening hours. In Derby, only the Central Library falls into this category, but space there is at a premium. However, discussions have begun with Derby Museums to explore the possibility of a coffee shop that would serve both the Central Library and Museum and Art Gallery.
22 Councils should cut the pay of senior staff.
The rates of pay have been determined following the application of a robust job evaluation exercise and are set in line with local market rates.
23 Councils should share their senior staff.
Options to "share" staff with other public sector bodies continues to be an option being explored. In some areas, this is already in place. For example, our director of public health was a joint appointment with the NHS.
24 Scrap the chief executive post entirely.
Posts at a very senior level, including that of the chief executive, are reviewed periodically to establish the most beneficial way of supporting the council. There are no plans to scrap the CEO post at this stage.
25 Introduce a recruitment freeze.
As part of our budget saving exercise, we have implemented a vacancy control strategy and a range of measures have been put in place, including freezing recruitment, except to positions which are essential.
26 Freeze councillor allowances and end councillor pensions.
The council has not increased members' allowances since 2008, but the potential damage of taking steps beyond this would appear to outweigh the benefits. It is important to note that allowances are not salaries, but entitlements for time spent. Making the role of councillor entirely voluntary, with no allowance or benefits, would ensure that only the most affluent people in society could afford to stand for election.
27 Cut spending on consultant and agency staff.
Agency usage is reducing and so too is our use of consultants.
28 End "expensive" leadership courses.
Derby City Council has reviewed its leadership and management development strategy and does not spend excessive amounts in relation to this.
29 Cut spending on head hunters and expensive adverts.
In a bid to drive down our advertising costs, we have increased our use of online advertising as opposed to placing adverts in the traditional manner in national press.
30 Review and reduce absenteeism.
It is anticipated that our Derby Work style strategy will further help reduce our sickness absence levels by introducing more flexible working practices. In addition, we are collaborating with the wider Derby Health and Wellbeing Board to develop health promotion strategies for our workforce.
31 Scrap trade union posts. The council recognises the valuable contribution that trade unions can make. However, we also believe that their facility time and arrangements need to be closely managed and monitored to ensure that they remain meaningful and effective. To this end, the council is currently finalising a review of TU facility time.
32 Charge for collecting trade union subscriptions.
We have no plans to deduct trade union subscriptions from an employee's salary, as this is a minimal cost.
33 Stop spending money on commercial lobbyists.
We do not pay for lobbyists or public affairs consultants.
34 Stop translating documents into foreign languages.
Only in exceptional circumstances do we print documents in a language other than English.
35 Reduce the number of publications and media monitoring.
Our media monitoring is done manually at no additional cost to the council.
36 Earn more from private advertising.
Securing private advertising and sponsorship is currently under investigation with a view to roll out in 2013.
37 Cease funding to fake or ingenuine charities.
We only provide funding to charitable organisations that provide services for the public. To the best of our knowledge, there are no lobbying or political campaigning groups receiving general funding from the council's budget.
38 Scrap the town hall pravda council magazine.
Your Derby, previously produced three times a year, ceased production in November 2012.
39 Stop providing free food and drink for meetings.
Councillors are not entitled to claim for subsistence unless the meeting lasts more than four hours. Where refreshments are required, the council deliberately under-orders to prevent any waste. Water coolers have been removed and staff are now able to access tap water as recommended.
40 Councils should reduce first-class travel.
Derby City Council has a contract for travel with Co-operative Travel Management which covers rail bookings, hotel reservations, conferences and seminars, flights and other travel matters. The current contract does not allow first class rail to be booked and it allows the use of budget airlines as well as scheduled airlines.
41 Use video conferencing instead of travel.
Derby City Council is currently piloting the use of desk-based video conferencing and instant messaging applications. The forthcoming new ICT strategy will set out council priorities on the use of video conferencing on a one-to-one and one-to-many basis.
42 Help the voluntary sector save you money.
We have put in place mechanisms to allow groups to express an interest in running a service currently provided by the council. Details are on our website.
43 Councils should cut printing costs.
The majority of the council's printing will take place in a new purpose-built print room, which will reduce the need to send work to external suppliers and allow us to raise income by selling our print service to external organisations. Over the last two years, we have removed about 500 printers to encourage staff to print less and we plan to cut the number of photocopying machines we have by 25%.
44 End lifestyle and equality questionnaires.
We have no plans to do this as we have to submit information to some Government departments in the form of statutory returns which inform national policy development, spending reviews and support inspection and regulatory processes carried out by Ofsted and CQC.
45 Councils should sell their services.
The council is actively reviewing the opportunities for promoting and selling services externally on a commercial basis.
46 Councils should hire out their town halls.
Arrangements are in place to start using the civic area of the Council House for weddings and civil partnerships. A policy is also being drawn up to make the Council Chamber and other parts of the building available for hire.
47 Lease works of art not on display.
Derby Museums has developed a pilot art leasing scheme and is committed to developing and delivering an extended scheme for works that are not on display.
48 Save money on computer software.
We are committed to exploiting software that offer lower cost levels.
49 Ask staff for more saving ideas.
We already invite feedback from staff on ideas and initiatives to save money.
50 Councils should cut their mileage payments.
We already use the HMRC non-profit rates of 45p per mile for travel up to 10,000 miles and 25p per mile over 10,000 miles.