AN EXTRA £10million is to be set aside to continue the work of transforming services at Dorset Council.

The new authority, which came into being in April, will use £5m for its ongoing transformation plan and £5m, or more, over a period of four years to hire consultants and specialist officers.

Dorset Council now has one of the highest council tax rates in the UK and this week councillors were told of a projected £14.7million overspend in its budget at the end of its first year, up £2m on figures for the first three months.

Cabinet members will hear at a meeting on November 5 that despite hundreds of job losses the extra funding is needed before the authority can realise the savings it promised at the start of local government reform – the conversion of six previous councils into one.

From the outset it said that many of the ’savings’ from reducing staff and streamlining services would not start until the second year of the programme. It is now asking for the extra spending to make that happen.

A report to Cabinet asking for £5million to continue the changes says: “Transformation should ultimately be self-funding, as long-term savings cover the cost of change, but a short-term investment fund is needed to initiate the projects within each transformation programme. £5million has been earmarked from funds made available by predecessor councils converging, which Cabinet is asked to agree.”

Before the start of local government reorganisation in Dorset international accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers predicted that the Dorset Council and Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole councils could enjoy a recurring annual saving of as much as £66million across both unitary councils.

Dorset officers are telling councillors now that as well as delivering the long term transformation of services priority must also be given to “the most immediate financial savings.”

Proposals include a councillor workshop in December and a later employee workshop with the final business plan going to the full council on February 13th 2020, along with the budget proposals.

Much of the change to council services is expected to be around making better use of technology and online services.

“To realise our ambition of becoming a 21st century Council we need to change the way we approach our work to enable us to create an organisation that is more flexible, adaptive and focused on the needs of our customers. This means applying a digital approach. Digital in Dorset is not just about technology, it’s a way of thinking and working – designing services around the needs of people, making the most of modern technology to provide the solutions and experiences we should expect today,” says the report to Cabinet.

The authority has a target of achieving £40m in savings by 2024.

The Council recognises that one of the obstacles to achieve this is not having the right people at the right time which is why councillors are also being asked to approve spending of what could be more than £5m over the period of the transformation plan to pay for temporary consultants and specialist agency staff.

“Within the workforce of Dorset Council there is a diverse and broad range of skills and expertise, much of which has been built up over many years. There are however, occasions when specialist skills or expertise, which do not exist within the council’s own workforce, are required or there are time restraints or other external factors that require external capacity,” said a report from director for corporate development Aidan Dunn.