Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A significant week

Last week there were several significant meetings at the County Council.

On Monday, I was part of the appointing panel who met to interview the
candidates for the Chief Operating Officer and Transformation Director posts.

As a result, we have two names to recommend to the Full Council meeting on Friday 14 February when it will consider the proposed changes to the structure: Diane Ashby for Chief Operating Officer and Gill Steward for Transformation Director.

Diane Ashby has worked for the County Council for the last six years and has previous commercial experience, having worked for Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop. Gill Steward has 17 years’ corporate management experience in the public sector, most recently as Corporate Director for three unitary authorities.

After many months of work, the proposed draft budget went before our Cabinet meeting last Tuesday, again for recommendation to the Full Council meeting later this month.

In previous blogs I have written about the difficult financial landscape we face, not only because we will have a lot less money, but as there is a degree of uncertainty on our funding in the future. This is why we are looking at a two-year savings plan of £55 million in the proposed budget, to be followed by a further two-year programme (work on this second part is currently underway).

We are just coming to the end of a three-year programme which successfully saved £79 million. We have been able to make considerable savings from being very careful with our tax payers money, living within our means, reducing our borrowing and therefore cutting the cost of the payments, as well as very good housekeeping and tight financial control.

The Government has again offered an incentive to councils who don’t increase council tax. Once again we are proposing to accept this, which would mean for the fourth year running that there wouldn’t be an increase from the County Council on council tax bills.

We have also been able to increase funding by £6.25 million into Adults’ Services, and have committed £30 million into improving unclassified roads across the county. We are investing in school improvement in Worthing (under the Age of Transfer project) and are building more much-needed classrooms along with other school improvements across the county.

In the years ahead we are focusing on three key areas: ‘Start of Life’ giving all children the best of start of life, ‘Economy’ to maintain and sustain the future economic prosperity across the county, and ‘Later Life’ to ensure residents are independent and well in later life. Underpinning these are some important principles; we will be there in an emergency, and we will be helping residents to help themselves.

As a County Council we are looking at the best outcomes around these areas, and work is well underway on how we will achieve them. Along with all councils across the land, we have to evolve and adapt to new ways of working and make the most of our much more limited income. That of course does and will mean change.

Linked in with supporting the economy, last year we commissioned an Independent Economic Review to help us understand what businesses require of us and how we can better engage with the business community. Earlier in the week these findings were presented in a draft report to Cabinet. This was very informative and helpful and we are now working on these findings – which you will hear more about in the coming months.

Friday also marked the last day of our outgoing Chief Executive Kieran Stigant. On Friday afternoon I attended a farewell event for Kieran, and it was good to see so many council officers and Members there to say their goodbyes. We all wish Kieran all the best for the future.

Best wishes,

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