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Warning over jobs as more dramatic council cuts are predicted
‘NO-ONE will be immune’ from the wide sweeping dramatic cuts to be made by Dorset County Council.
That is the powerful warning by council leader Spencer Flower in an interview with the Dorset Echo.
And he warned that more jobs could be lost as the council seeks to make swinging cuts in a bid to save £48million over the next three years.
Around 200 staff have already been made redundant but the overall reduction in posts had been nearly 500 with removing vacant posts and redeploying staff.
Coun Flower said the council needs to ‘squeeze every penny that they can and that he and the council chiefs have ‘absolute responsibility’ to find this money.
“We have to fundamentally change the way we do things,” he said.
“I will do everything in my power to change process, change the layers of bureaucracy and change the way things have always been done before any frontline services are altered.”
In the most stark warning to date, Coun Flower said: “I have confidence that we will find these savings. It will be our biggest challenge yet but we have got the time to get it right and we will.”
“But just to make it clear this is the most radical and reforming change plan this council has ever experienced and is ever likely to experience again.”
In a hard-hitting meeting three weeks ago, Coun Flower announced that the local authority, which has already identified £18m in savings, must find an additional £30m by 2016/17.
He issued a strong warning to council officers that their ideas were not ‘brave enough’ and asked them to go back to the drawing board to find a further £30million in savings.
Now, three weeks later, an agenda published ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday identifies £42.4m of savings – which is 90 per cent of the £47million required.
Coun Flower said: “There is still a lot of bureaucracy in council processes and I plan to apply business principles to get the best practice out of the organisation.”
He added: “I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that this could involve jobs being lost – our main cost is payroll and there will be no ‘no go’ areas.”
There is also a planned restructure of the chief executive’s office and the corporate services directorate.
The Forward Together Transformation programme plans to transform the council into a ‘radical and reforming organisation’ which will have significantly reduced financial services.
As part of the plan, councillors, council staff and communities are being asked to come together to come up with ways of supporting council services in the future.
Vast savings are to be made in adult and community services – with at least £12.2million in savings to be made in that department alone.
He said that years of ‘over demand’ has put strain on the department and it goes over budget every year due to the fact that it is a demand-led service.
He said: “Over 50 per cent of our budget is spent on four per cent of the county’s population in adult social care and that is ‘looking to increase’.
Coun Flower added that voluntary organisations and support agencies will be consulted in the restructure to increase working together. A total of £14.6million savings will be made as part of the Whole authority operating strategy – which is described as having ‘far reaching’ projects including restructure.
Although Coun Flower admits the finer details of these savings have not yet been drawn up he pledged that it will be found.
He said: “I haven’t got the details at this point but we will be able to tell the public about this in a few months.”
At the moment many of the Dorset councils are sharing services such as the Dorset Waste Partnership .
Coun Flower said this is crucial for the future: “There is really a partnership mood in Dorset and I am very keen on that – why shouldn’t we all work together?”
The cabinet will meet on Wednesday to agree this report.
Conservative councillor Spencer Flower was elected leader of Dorset County Council in May 2013 for the next four years.
He was the leader of East Dorset District Council and had been in the position for five years.
Coun Flower has spent his working life in engineering, 10 years of which were in various line management roles, followed by 21 years as managing director for two engineering companies.
During that time he was described as ‘taking quite radical decisions’ to cope with the council’s financial challenges.
Coun Flower was chosen at an annual council meeting following the county elections.
He replaced Angus Campbell who said he was ‘stepping down to give someone else a chance’ after seven years as leader and added that the authority would benefit from ‘new people with new ideas’.
The leader chairs all meetings of the council's cabinet and leads on policy development and implementation.
Elected as a district councillor in 1999, Coun Flower was appointed leader of the district council nine years later in 2008.
He has an almost flawless attendance record for meetings with last year’s records showing he attended 95per cent of meetings.
He is the county councillor for Verwood and Three Legged Cross, district councillor for the Holt ward and town councillor for Verwood Town Council.
In his own blog, Coun Flower wrote: “The public rightly demand high standards, hard work and a positive approach from their local councils. I believe that in Dorset, while there are sometimes difficult choices to make, we are doing the right things to build a better more sustainable future.”
Coun Flower does not get paid a salary by the county council but can claim expenses.
Last year for 2012/2013 he claimed a total of £42,846 across two councils.
At Dorset County Council he claimed £22,476 – of which £20,370 is the basic allowance and £2,106 was mileage.
For East Dorset District Council he claimed £15,576.65 – which includes £10,121.41 for the special responsibility of leader.
- When asked how Dorset will look in 10 years, Coun Flower said: “In 10 years local government will look radically different and in Dorset it will be quite a departure from the past.
“During the next three years I think people will see a change in what the council can deliver which will be quite a departure from the past.”
He added that he would be surprised if in 10 years’ time anyone said that there was any unnecessary process or staff levels in the council.
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