Devon introduces jobs freeze to cut costs

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Posted on: 4 January 2017

A jobs freeze is being introduced by Devon County Council to manage a projected budget overspend.

The latest estimates show the budget will overspend by £8.1 million by the end of the financial year unless firm action is taken.

The jobs freeze will not apply to posts where the council would fail to meet its statutory responsibilities if it did not recruit a replacement worker.

In addition, no temporary or agency staff or consultants – apart from front-line social workers – will be taken on without the personal authorisation of chief executive, Phil Norrey.

The projected overspend is mainly due to an overrun of £6.4 million on adult social care because of increased demand.

A total of 10,422 packages of care for elderly people and people with physical and learning difficulties were in place last month. That’s 584 more than budgeted for.

There is also considerable pressure on school transport with costs rising on a range of services including home to school and home to college transport and travel for children with special educational needs.

The county council’s deputy leader and finance chief John Clatworthy said  tough, cost-saving measures needed to be taken.

“This administration has balanced its budget for the past seven years despite facing multi-million pound austerity cuts every year. We have absolutely no intention of not balancing the books,” he said.

“There has also been a relentless, upward pressure on demand for adult services with Devon being home to a higher proportion of people aged over 65 – and especially over 85 – than is typical.

“We are also facing additional costs from added responsibilities such as the introduction of the Care Act and paying the National Living Wage to workers delivering care in the community and in care homes.

“Almost all our neighbours in the South West are facing similar pressures and similar demands on their budgets.

“We have a clear responsibility to care for the most vulnerable children and adults in our county and we will always fulfil that responsibility.

“But we also have a responsibility to maintain an efficient and cost-effective council for our residents and we will not shirk from the tough measures we will have to take to bring our budget back into the black.

“Since we took responsibility for the county council in 2009 we have reduced the workforce by half from 8,284 to 4,378 cutting the pay bill by nearly £50 million.

“We have made the council more efficient and reduced our overall spending by £244 million.”

In a message to staff, Dr Norrey said: “You are all more than aware that the pressures on the county council’s budget continue to grow, with a great deal of uncertainty nationally about the future economic picture.

“While we have a good track record in managing our budget, if we are to meet our future targets further measures now need to be considered and implemented.

“As part of our savings programme, a recruitment freeze has now been agreed which will take immediate effect.

“This means a freeze on all recruitment with the exception of business critical posts, and includes the use of temporary workers, agency workers, interims and consultants.

“The freeze applies to all non-schools posts, regardless of grade or terms and conditions, and will be reviewed in June 2017.

“While I understand that this may place some additional pressure on you and your teams, we do all need to take collective responsibility for managing the budget.”

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