Derbyshire County Council to appoint new bosses ahead of service changes and job cuts

Three new bosses earning a combined total of up to £250,000 per year are to be appointed by Derbyshire County Council as the organisation 'enters a new world'.
Derbyshire County Council's headquarters.Derbyshire County Council's headquarters.
Derbyshire County Council's headquarters.

On Thursday, cabinet members agreed plans for the Conservative-led authority to become an 'enterprising council'.

This will involve big changes in how the council delivers services to residents and the ways in which its employees work.

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The council will review all its services to 'see if there is a better way to organise them or buy them'.

To start with, bosses will study several services including libraries, highways and learning disabilities.

Council workers are advised their managers will keep them up-to-date.

Over the next year, the council is set to lose around 260 positions.

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The council is currently advertising for a director of organisation development and policy - earning between £86,437 to £95,082 per annum - and a director of legal services - also earning between £86,437 to £95,082 per annum.

Both job adverts state the successful applicants will 'play a key role in us becoming an enterprising council' and be 'at the heart of an organisation which is about to stride into a new world'.

The authority has also approved plans to appoint a project manager - earning a total of £64,722 per annum - who will help shape the 'enterprising council'.

Leader describes what an 'enterprising council' is

Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of the council, said: "Like every county council in the country we're facing challenges because our funding has to stretch further than ever before and we need to make sure value for money is at the heart of everything we do.

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"That's why we're developing our 'enterprising council' vision, which has been approved by cabinet.

"So what does that mean?

"Being an 'enterprising council' means placing value for money at the heart of everything we do and making sure that we're efficient and effective and that we're focused on getting the best results for our residents; that we do things with local people rather than to them and that we value fairness, openness and partnership.

"We're proud of Derbyshire and ambitious for our public services.

"So delivering 21st century services to local people - services they want and need - we must rise to the challenge by thinking and doing things differently, by not shirking bold decisions or change and being commercially-minded in seeking the best result for every penny we spend.

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"Already around 50 per cent of what we do is provided by voluntary or commercial organisations - and this will undoubtedly increase in the future.

"We'll be looking at every service we provide and will be determining if there's a better model for delivery, including further commissioning and looking at sharing or trading services with other councils.

"And is it just about saving money?

"I don't think it is.

"It's more about modernising and changing as the world changes.

"We need to be open-minded and in a position to take advantage of new technology and better ways of doing things for our residents and employees.

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"In the future, it’s likely more of our staff will work for other organisations delivering public services on our behalf."

Coun Lewis confirmed that the council is expected to lose around 260 positions over the next year and said: "We expect the vast majority to be met by not replacing staff when they leave the authority or early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

"Compulsory redundancies are always a last resort.

"To put that into some kind of context, at the moment we are seeking 191 new employees.

"Budget reductions mean we would have to reduce staff numbers anyway.

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"By delivering the value-for-money which our 'enterprising council' brings, it means we can keep them to a minimum."

He added: "In terms of what this means for users of our services and what happens next, we'll be working hard to ensure a seamless transition to our 'enterprising council' model.

"This means service users should experience very little disruption.

"We will continue to be committed to delivering excellent services for Derbyshire residents.

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"I'm excited at the opportunities that our 'enterprising council' vision brings and I'm looking forward to developing plans for the future."

Concerns raised by opposition

Coun Anne Western, leader of the Labour group on the council, raised concerns.

She said: "In terms of value for money, efficiency and innovation, this is a re-branding of the strategy that Labour followed over the previous four years, with one significant difference: the lemming-like drive towards out-sourcing and privatising services.

"Under the guise of the innocuous word 'commissioning', the Conservatives want to put services out to the market.

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"Derbyshire has until now been very well served by a mixed-economy approach, with around 50 per cent of services provided directly by the council.

"There has not been the wholesale outsourcing that other councils pursued a decade ago and which is a significant factor in the financial collapse of Northamptonshire County Council.

"Many of the councils that outsourced services are now desperate to bring them back in-house because, in times of austerity, being tied into inflexible contracts makes it extremely difficult to manage the Government-imposed cuts programme.

"Neither does it automatically bring better quality services and it certainly means worse pay and conditions for front line workers.

"And as for stability, look no further than Carillion.

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"Among the services listed for this brave new enterprising world is the management and maintenance of our roads.

"There are many complaints about Derbyshire's roads but you don't have to travel far out of the county in any direction to see that the situation is often far worse.

"Libraries - will some be closed or will they be handed over to volunteers to run?

"We will be keeping a watchful eye on this as more details emerge in the next few months."

Ongoing austerity bites

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Earlier this month, the council agreed to make £12m in savings over the next year.

The cuts include a £500,000 reduction in disability learning services, a £300,000 reduction in early help provision for vulnerable children and their families and a £300,000 reduction in school crossing patrols.

A council tax increase of 4.99 per cent - the authority's biggest in 15 years - was also approved.

Since 2010, the council has slashed its budget by £200m amid Tory austerity.