Friday brief: North unitary makes multi-million pound staff savings and uses reserves to balance books
Plus other news from across the county
Huge reductions to staff teams in most departments have saved North Northamptonshire Council almost £5m in the latest financial year according to its latest report.
Environmental health, human resources and facilities management are the departments where the most savings have been made in the 2022-23 financial year.
In the draft outturn report for the year, the council’s chief finance officer Janice Gotts says the authority will have a £965,000 overspend on its £300m annual budget - although final figures are still to be reached due to the complicated charge and recharge system that operates between the council and its counterpart in the West.
The figures show that £421,000 has been made in staffing savings in environmental health; £621,000 in the council’s human resources team and £362,000 on staff in facilities management.
Other savings listed in the report are: £488,000 on salaries for Knuston Hall; £268,000 in the commissioning partnerships department; £125,000 in grounds maintenance; £20,000 in the fleet vehicles team; £48,000 in the street light team; £150,000 in economic development; £150,000 in transport; £84,000 in building control; £109,000 in licensing; £288,000 in the finance team; £246,000 in procurement; £162,000 in the benefits team; £131,000 in the performance team; £524,000 in the executive support, communications and web team; £151,000 in the legal team, £319,000 in customer services and £184,000 in the transformation team.
The saving is a colossal sum and illustrates how short staffed some departments are. The authority does spend huge sums on agency staff and the spend on agency has been factored into these figures - so the numbers listed above are actual savings in the staffing of the departments and take into account any agency spend.
The report says:
“The councils draft outturn reflects an overspend of £965k as a result of the council’s prudent and strong financial management the council have been able to absorb most of the pressures from the Children's Trust which is the council’s largest single contract and are reporting an overspend of £21.387m. The cost to this council is £9.444m and reflects how the contract sum is split between North Northamptonshire Council (44.16%) and West Northamptonshire Council (55.84%). This is a significant achievement taking into account the pressures the council has had to manage owing to the significant levels of inflation which has led to increased costs, alongside this there is recognition that the demand for services has increased as a result of the current economic climate.”
The £4,917,000 in savings (NN Journal has calculated this by adding up the staffing savings listed in the report, so this figure is approximate) coupled with the authority using all of its £4.75m contingency budget has meant the overspend of the children’s trust has been covered.
The primary cause of the overspend of the trust is due to the cost of residential places for children in care, which is outside of the trust’s control and dictated by the market.
News in brief
Sacked police officers found to have fallen ‘well below’ the standard expected could be stripped of their pensions after a plan was approved.
Northamptonshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold agreed to introduce ‘formal policy and procedure’ which his office said would ‘act as a deterrent for [any] criminality’ within Northamptonshire Police.
Currently, legislation allows for Mr Mold and other police and crime commissioners to apply to the home secretary for consent to consider the forfeiture of police officers’ pension rights in certain cases.
They include the conviction of officers in certain cases, including treason, those under the Official Secrets Act and other criminal matters.
Mr Mold’s office said the approval to set a formal process for that in Northamptonshire will mean pension funds are ‘appropriately protected’. It said it will also ‘reassure the public that [Mr Mold] takes matters such as criminality seriously and will pursue sanctions available’.
In January, chief constable Nick Adderley said police regulations should be reviewed to make it easier to get rid of incompetent or criminal cops or police staff.
“It’s the devil’s own job to get rid of somebody from policing. It cannot be right that you can have people who can play the system…ultimately knowing that they are going to get dismissed or fined or even imprisoned in one recent example but we still have to pay them,” he said.
Northamptonshire Police rejected a freedom of information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) earlier this year into how many officers were or had been investigated for sexual offences, following Carrick’s imprisonment.
It said while providing a number of the officers ‘would lead to a better informed general public’, it would “suggest Northamptonshire Police take their responsibility to appropriately handle and manage intelligence…flippantly.”
Report by Nathan Briant, Local democracy reporter
A care home could be built on part of a site currently used by a garden centre at ‘long-term risk’, despite objections.
The Olive Grove garden centre near Polebrook would occupy a smaller part of its current spot off Oundle Road if North Northamptonshire Council gives the plan the go-ahead next week.
Polebrook Parish Council unanimously objected to the plan, claiming the two-storey care home and adjoining cafe would be ‘excessive’ in the countryside and more suited to an ‘urban environment’.
It also said it worried about possible light pollution and waste water management.
But the council’s planning department said the positives of the development, including about 30 new full-time jobs being created and potentially securing the garden centre’s long-term future, outweigh the negatives.
It said though the proposal ‘would change the character of the site and its immediate surroundings’, that would not be to the extent to warrant it being refused.
It added there is a ‘significant unmet need’ of care bed spaces in North Northamptonshire and that the new development would ensure a good standard of accommodation.
All 68 bedrooms would include wet rooms, for example, which are not included in all care homes in the area.
About 70 per cent of care homes in North Northamptonshire were built before 2000, the council said, and a lack of private cleaning facilities ‘can have significant implications for the wellbeing and health’ of residents.
The care home would take up the bulk of the space and would be operated by Lincolnshire-based Country Court Care Homes.
The size of the garden centre, which says it has the widest range of olive trees in the UK, would be cut by about two-thirds. It would be rebuilt on the eastern part of the site.
The council said some objectors’ concerns, which included that the site could be ‘windy and cold’ and that potential care home residents could feel isolated, were not matters that could materially affect the proposal.
The council’s north planning committee will be asked to decide if the proposal should be given planning permission next Wednesday.
By Nathan Briant
🎊 Save Our Trees is having a bingo night tonight at 6.30pm at St Andrews Church Hall in Berrymoor Road, Wellingborough to raise funds for the fight to save the town’s lime trees. £5 entry plus BBQ. Buy tickets here
🍺 Northampton County Beer Festival is happening today and tomorrow at Becketts Park, Northampton from 11am to 11pm.