Agenda item

Medium Term Financial Strategy 2024/25 - 2027/28 - Corporate Resources Department

Mr L. Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources, and Mr P. Bedford CC, Lead Member for Recovery and Transformation, have been invited to attend for this item.



The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the proposed 2024/25 – 2027/28 MTFS as it related to the Corporate Resources Department.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed the Leader and the Lead Member for Resources who remained present for this item.


Arising from discussion and questions, the following points arose:



(i)               A Member raised challenged the scale of the savings required to be made by the Department given that some of the services it provided were discretionary, not statutory.  The Director commented that the overall budget for the service was £30m, and an ongoing saving of £3m had been identified which was therefore significant given that this would be a year-on-year reduction in spend of 10%. The identification of further savings was also being considered for future years.

(ii)              Ways of Working – A Member questioned if the planned capital investment of more than £5.5m on the Ways of Working programme was justifiable against a forecasted saving of £70,000 in 2024/25 rising to £780,000 from 2025/26 onwards.  The Director commented that this was the additional saving from 2024/25 and that savings had also been made in previous years. The current MTFS showed what was a short term capital investment to support this saving.  However, this would be balanced against the generation of an increasing, long term revenue income stream, as well as long term reduced costs to the Council.  Members noted that most of the investment costs included within the MTFS related to improved IT infrastructure which would be necessary to support improved service delivery.  Improvements in IT related to updating staff laptops, which had a natural life cycle, and improvements to the network infrastructure. 

(iii)            Members noted that the Programme delivered a range of benefits in addition to the financial benefits outlined.  These included increased productivity of staff, the improved recruitment and retention of staff, and a reduction in carbon and overall operating costs.  It was noted that an update on the Ways of Working Programme would be provided to the Commission in April.

(iv)            The models of IT were changing and there was a gradual move from capital investment to a revenue cost as more was hosted off-site with third party providers.  Members noted that a significant amount of spend was now targeted towards security.  The Director undertook to address this as part of the Ways of Working update to be provided in April.

(v)             A Member questioned what options had been assessed as part of the business case for the Programme and whether there were any opportunity costs being lost in retaining the current office space.  The Director commented that a balance had been struck between the capital value of the County Hall campus against the cost and disruption to services of relocating staff to a new site. 

(vi)            Review of mobile phones – A tender exercise had been undertaken 3 to 4 years ago which had significantly reduced the cost of mobile phones used by staff.  The use of handsets had increased during the covid pandemic (from approximately 2,300 to over 3,000).  Efforts were now being made to reduce those numbers where possible.  However, it had to be acknowledged that working arrangements had changed during that time, particularly in the field of social care, and staff were using devices more regularly to engage differently with service uses including, for example, by using WhatsApp.  This was proving beneficial and so the savings had to be balanced against a new service need.

(vii)          Union Representatives – Some Members challenged why the Council funded employee union representatives and provided them with facilities within County Hall, suggesting that this should be paid for out of union members subscriptions, not council funding.  The Director reported that the Council currently funded 4 full time union representatives at a cost of approximately £160,000/£170,000 pa.  They were also given use of reasonable facilities within the building.  This was common for local authorities of this size and complexity. 

(viii)         Given the degree of service transformation that had taken place across the Authority over the last decade, it was suggested that the input of union representatives had been valuable, and they played an important part in ensuring good employee relations, especially during significant periods of change.  It was noted that approximately 30% of staff were members of a recognised trade union.  However, when reaching collective agreements with trade unions this benefited all staff and the reach of union representatives therefore went beyond the 30% who were registered members.

(ix)            The Leader commented that the amount spent to fund trade union representatives was good value.  Relations with all trade unions had been good and they provided a useful channel through which to communicate, negotiate and engage with staff. Given the concerns now raised, however, the Leader understood to consider the matter.


[At this point in the meeting Mrs A. Hack CC declared an Other Registerable Interest as a GMB union member.  Mr R. J. Richardson also declared he was a union member.]

(x)             Traded Services - A Member commented that the Council’s commercial traded services were costing the Authority a significant amount but generating very little in revenue return.  It was questioned whether the Council could efficiently run services of this nature.  Members noted that the school meal service had generated a good income in the past for the Council but had been hard hit by the covid pandemic and subsequently affected by food inflation and increases in the national living wage.  The Director highlighted that the services did have a dual purpose and were not entirely commercial.  Whilst required to generate an income, they also provided wider benefits, school food and outdoor activities at Beaumanor being examples.

(xi)            A Member challenged the losses made by the school meal service and questioned what action had been taken to rectify contracts which had not accounted for the significant rise in food inflation costs.   It was noted that an update on the performance of the service was the subject of a separate report elsewhere on the agenda for this meeting.



(xii)          ICT – The investment allocated was largely to address end of life replacement, capacity growth and upgrades.  This was not an investment to generate future savings, but necessary to improve efficient ways of working and ensure systems were robust and secure.

(xiii)         Property Services – A Member questioned what challenge took place when considering whether or not to carry out works to a property and if the sale of that property was also considered.  It was noted that new windows at a cost of £85,000 were to be installed at the Basset Centre in Wigston.  The Director provided assurance that robust reviews were undertaken of every property before works were carried out.  In this instance, the property was not empty but used as a locality office by the registrar and social workers and also housed the Memphis Centre.  The works had therefore been considered appropriate in respect of this property.



That the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet at its meeting on 9th February 2024 for consideration


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