As you will be aware the Council agreed the budget for 17/18 at yesterday’s Council meeting. It contains some positives and some negatives for Education and Children’s Services going forward. I know it has been a challenging time with uncertainty over what savings would be going ahead and which may not – the full details of the saving being taken will shortly be available on the Zone, under committee notes.
I have enclosed a note from the Chief Executive outlining the next steps and key points.
Elected members have agreed the 2017/18 budget at a meeting of the full Council.
Although it is an aspect I touched upon in my message prior to the meeting, it is worth recapping on the context of this year’s budget – with a settlement offer from the Scottish Government amounting to a reduction of £10million, excluding ring fenced grants and additional cost pressures (such as staff increments and pay awards), which left us with an identified shortfall of £17.2m.
Elected members were presented with potential savings and income generating initiatives brought forward by ECMT amounting to £32m. They did not have to adopt all of these, and a decision has now been taken on which will proceed.
I must take the opportunity to pass on my gratitude to the finance team for their hard work and dedication in preparing the budget options, supported by officers from throughout the council who contributed significantly to the range of efficiencies identified. As an organisation we place such great emphasis on changing the way we do our business and many of the proposals tabled showed great innovation, demonstrating the way in which ideas can make a very real difference to the way we operate.
The full decisions and minutes from today’s budget meeting will be available soon in the committees section of our website, I appreciate each individual will have their own specific areas of interest and will want to know what impact the options taken will have on the services they deliver.
What I know will be the key decision of interest to many is the option to enter into a programme of voluntary severance and early retirement (VSER). That option has today been adopted by elected members, who despite noting their reluctance to reduce the number of staff we employ, accepted the business case put forward.
The proposal identified our commitment to being dynamic in our approach to delivering services, embracing new technology and the opportunities that presents. Whilst this is a positive process, we recognise that a more efficient way of working will allow Aberdeen City Council to serve the city with fewer staff in some areas of operation. By agreeing on the VSER option, elected members have recognised the need to shape the workforce as part of the transformation we are undertaking.
With the decision now made, I am in a position to outline the next steps in the process. It is important that the communication with staff is clear, open and honest throughout. Trade unions are also being kept fully informed.
Next week each employee will receive a formal letter from me to explain the decision in more detail and invite applications from those who wish to be considered either for voluntary severance or early retirement.
As has been stressed previously, not all applications will be accepted – each will be considered on its own merits and must be right not only for the member of staff but also for the Council and the needs of the business going forward.
Managers have been briefed on these next steps and will be able to offer support and advice to anyone considering applying or simply interested in finding out more. I would urge anyone with any concerns or queries relating to the decision to talk those through at the earliest opportunity as we do not want this process to cause uncertainty.
Understandably the issue of VSER will generate much discussion internally and I would encourage that dialogue. I want everyone to be part of the conversation about the way Aberdeen City Council works now and how it will look going forward.
This process is not a signal of decline – I want to be clear that opportunities remain plentiful and we are creating a vibrant place to work, where talent can thrive and develop.
There are of course other significant elements of the budget decisions reached today, without the same impact on our workforce as a whole but of vital importance to those we serve and to those delivering services on the frontline.
In the days and weeks ahead we will be communicating those key points to ensure the big picture is clear and the positive strides being taken are recognised.
I thank you all for your continued support in realising the vision for an ambitious, achieving, smart city where inequalities are challenged and every individual has the opportunity to make a valuable contribution.
Source: Directors Blog