50 ways Eric Pickles says Derbyshire County Council can save money ... and its response
Yesterday, Derby City Council outlined how it had implemented most of the money-saving exercises suggested by the Government in the face of huge cuts. Today, Derbyshire County Council insists it, too, has carried out most of the tips.
1 Share back office services with other councils or organisations.
We have numerous examples of shared back and front office services. Examples include East Midlands Property Alliance, East Midlands Highways Alliance and East Midlands Law Share. Council staff have been moved into other offices so buildings can be sold off.
2 Reduce duplication and waste by enabling providers of public services to work together and share budgets.
Most community budget pilots across the country have yet to deliver any savings. We are actively developing a Troubled Families/Thriving Families Programme to help them overcome their problems and so reduce the cost and level of public services they need.
3 Use transparency to create an "army of armchair auditors" who will identify waste.
We publish all our spending over £500. There have been few – if any – inquiries from the "army of armchair auditors".
4 Tackle the issue of duplicate payments.
Our payment monitoring systems already identify potential duplicate payments.
5 Introduce greater financial controls on corporate charge cards.
We only have one corporate charge card and we restrict and monitor its use very carefully.
6 Review the authority's spending controls.
All our spending is properly authorised, complies with our financial rules and regulations and is scrutinised by internal and external auditors. Individual councillors have no authority to spend council cash.
7 Councils should tackle the issue of fraud.
We have a nationally-recognised anti-fraud culture and we take a hard line on fraud and will always take action where we find evidence of wrongdoing. The council is a member of the National Anti-Fraud Network.
8 Claw back money from benefit cheats.
We don't provide benefit payments. However, we co-ordinated a county-wide initiative to clamp down on council tax payers wrongly claiming the single person's 25% discount.
9 Get more for less by improving procurement.
We have saved £1.8 million since 2010 thanks to our better buying policies. We expect to save another £1.1 million over the next three years.
10 Use public buying organisations to facilitate collective buying of goods and services.
We already use public buying organisations, e-auctions, a care cost calculator and other initiatives to cut costs and bulk buy.
11 Stop scope for procurement fraud.
We have strict rules covering the buying of goods and services. But we know it could be a problem so we closely review what we do and our auditors target high-value, high-risk contracts.
12 Councils should utilise reserves creatively.
We do. We are using them to support our apprenticeship programme, first-time buyer mortgages and bulk buying energy-switching schemes. We keep around £30 million for emergencies – in line with good accounting guidance.
13 Improve council tax collection rates.
We do not collect council tax – district, borough and city councils collect it.
14 Encourage direct debit and e-billing for council tax.
We do not collect council tax.
15 Councils should close cash offices.
We do not have cash offices. We closed the one we had eight years ago.
16 Improve land and property management.
Our Changing The Way Derbyshire Works accommodation project – aimed at reducing the numbers of offices and buildings we use – has so far saved £1 million a year and raised £4.5 million from selling them off. We expect to save a further £3 million and £15.5 million from land and property sales over the next three years.
17 Reducing floor space through hot-desking so areas can be sub-let.
Hot-desking and ending leases on buildings are just two of the initiatives in our Changing The Way Derbyshire Works accommodation project. Since 2007 we have vacated 55 buildings, introduced hot-desking and set up 40 touchdown centres. We already share buildings with other authorities.
18 Open a "pop up" shop in spare office space.
Our Changing The Way Derbyshire Works accommodation project means we will have no spare offices.
19 Close subsidised council canteens.
We don't have any staff canteens.
20 Cancel away days in posh hotels and glitzy award ceremonies
We do not have away days in "posh" hotels. We do occasionally attend award ceremonies where the council's work has been shortlisted for national or regional recognition for its quality and excellence.
21 Open a coffee shop in the library.
We have had a cafe in Chesterfield library since 1986. We have little – if any – spare space in our libraries. But we have leased out part of our buildings to a cafe in the new South Normanton joint service centre and at the Staveley Centre.
22 Councils should cut the pay of senior staff.
Our pay scales are well below the national average. Senior pay has been frozen for the last four years and we don't offer any perks like leased cars, nor do we give big pay-offs.
23 Council should share their senior staff.
Sharing staff does have its place – but only where appropriate. Given the scale of our services, there is little spare capacity to share staff.
24 Scrap the chief executive post entirely.
The chief executive is head of the paid service. He is responsible for delivering the council's policies, managing our £1.2 billion budget and 36,000 staff. We believe it is for democratically-elected councils to decide the most cost-effective management structure.
25 Introduce a recruitment freeze.
We have used job vacancy controls for years. We will have cut 2,000 jobs by April 2014.
26 Freeze councillor allowances and end councillor pensions.
Politically managing a £1.2 billion organisation is a full-time job and allowances for councillors should recognise this. All our Members' Allowances are recommended by an Independent Remuneration Panel. Allowances have been frozen for the last three years.
27 Cut spending on consultant and agency staff.
We have set up Resources at Derbyshire to limit our use of agencies. We only use them for short-term recruitment and for temporary staff with specialist skills.
28 End "expensive" leadership courses.
We do not send councillors or employees on courses like Common Purpose.
29 Cut spending on head-hunters and expensive adverts.
We do not use head-hunters and our recruitment advertising is mostly limited to the local media. For the last 10 years we have advertised all our jobs on the Jobs@ Derbyshire website.
30 Review and reduce absenteeism.
We have reduced sickness and absenteeism. Our average of 6.8 days a year per employee is among the best in the public sector and compares well with the private sector.
31 Scrap the council's trade union posts.
We know that good trade union relations are valuable to the council. We only have one employee (branch secretary) who is a full-time union officer. We are currently talking to the unions in a bid to reduce "facility time" for other union representatives.
32 Charge for collecting Trade Union subscriptions.
We have charged the unions for this service for the last 10 years – currently around £25,000 a year.
33 Stop spending money on commercial lobbyists.
We don't employ commercial lobbyists.
34 Stop translating documents into foreign languages.
We rarely translate documents. The council has a translation service available through Call Derbyshire which costs less than £500 a year.
35 Reduce the number of publications and media monitoring.
We have reduced our external print bill by more than £300,000 over the last two years.
36 Earn more from private advertising.
We don't include private advertising in council publications. We don't have the resources/expertise to "sell" advertising and we do not want to reduce the potential income of the local media. We do secure sponsorship for some events such as the Food and Drink Fair and Derbyshire Young Achiever Awards.
37 Cease funding to fake or ingenuine charities.
We do not fund fake charities. We have detailing the services we expect from the funding we give to the voluntary, community and independent sectors.
38 Scrap the town hall pravda council magazine.
We distribute Derbyshire First four times a year – a reduction from six issues, saving around £80,000. It is the most cost-effective way of reaching all our council tax payers with important information about our services. It costs just under 50p a year per Derbyshire household to print and distribute.
39 Stop providing free food and drink for meetings.
We almost never provide food in meetings, we do provide water, tea and coffee. We do not allow expensive meals on charge cards.
40 Councils should reduce first-class travel.
We stopped first-class travel for councillors and officers more than 30 years ago.
41 Cut mileage payments to HMRC rates.
We only pay HMRC rates.
42 Use video conferencing instead of travel.
We use technology to help achieve our budget savings and work more efficiently. We use video conferencing and Skype – particularly when working with other public services.
43 Help the voluntary sector save you money.
We work closely with community groups and the voluntary sector. We have provided around £1.7 million in cash grants to support their work. We have also won national awards and accolades for our extensive Big Society programme.
44 Councils should cut printing costs.
We have systems in place to save a further £300,000 on our printing costs over the next three years.
45 End lifestyle and equality questionnaires.
We don't do standalone lifestyle or equality questionnaires.
46 Councils should sell their services.
Our priority is to provide good local services – not to run businesses purely to make a profit. However, we do sell our services where there is a benefit to the council and to our council tax payers – property repairs and maintenance and vehicle maintenance are two examples.
47 Council should hire out their town halls.
We have hired out County Hall for weddings and other activities for well over 10 years.
48 Lease works of art not on display.
We ended our picture loan scheme in the 1990s when it no longer covered the costs of insurance and administration. Our pictures are widely displayed in Derbyshire's public buildings and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and are enjoyed by thousands of young people in local schools.
49 Save money on open source computer software.
We don't use open source software because of problems of security, compatibility, lack of support when things go wrong and lack of standards. None of our partner organisations use it either.
50 Ask staff for more saving ideas.
We've had a staff suggestion scheme for years that we continually promote.