North East Lincolnshire Council on course for its £8.6m cost-cutting target
SAVINGS of £1.7 million made in the last 18 months means that North East Lincolnshire is on course to reach its 2015 cost cutting target of £8.6 million.
That is the pledge made to the Grimsby Telegraph by the council's strategic director of governance and transformation Rob Walsh, pictured, after it was revealed that the man who was paid £70,000 a year to spearhead the cuts has left his role, five months before his contract was due to end in December.
Paul Spencer was drafted into the authority from Norwich City Council and appointed Future Shape programme manager at North East Lincolnshire Council when the controversial position was created in March last year.
His contract was due to end on December 31, but he left last month to work for another local authority. His deputy Dave Cook has stepped into a new expanded role of programme manager. Mr Walsh said that Mr Cook would now head a review of the council's support departments, including IT, legal, HR and finance as part of that new role.
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As reported, the Future Shape programme aims to save £8.6-million by 2015 by reducing the authority's in-house costs.
During Mr Spencer's time at the helm, £1.7-million of savings were achieved. Cost-cutting methods included 33 voluntary redundancies, 10 compulsory redundancies and a new, streamlined human resources, payroll and finance system.
Mr Walsh said: "Paul's role was to co-ordinate a number of projects and to make sure plans were in place to achieve savings and instigate a culture of change within the authority.
"Future Shape is to mitigate the prospect of elected members having to make very difficult decisions about frontline services, although clearly they still have tough choices to make.
"We brought him in because there was nobody with the right skill-set within this area and he has now passed his skills on to others so that they can continue the programme."
Mr Walsh said a £2.4-million reserve was set-aside for the Future Shape programme in 2011 and an under-spend is currently being achieved. He confirmed that the £1.7-million of savings so far means the authority is on track to reach its cost-cutting target by 2015.
He added: "I firmly believe that Future Shape has been a success so far. It hasn't been painless, but it has been effective.
"It hasn't just altered the way the authority works and operates internally but is changing the way we interact with customers and members of the public.
"When it comes to any public body there will be opposition to wages, but the complex skills and knowledge this role requires justifies the salary. Paul was the right man for the job and he did it well.
"We are now looking to the future and the next stage of the programme."
Within the next three to six months a review of the council's support departments, including IT, legal, HR and finance will be carried out. The Future Shape programme is also working to improve customer relations, including encouraging more consultation with members of the public.