Despite financial pressures, the council is proud not to cut front line services
East Devon District Council is now working on its budget preparation for 2018/19 and beyond.
Like all other councils up and down the country, East Devon is feeling the effects of the annual reductions in Government funding. Future reductions combined with other budgetary pressures mean that the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) is currently predicting a budget deficit of £0.735m in 2018/19, rising to £3m by 2020/21 and potentially to £5.4m by 2027/28.
Despite these increasing financial pressures, the council is proud not to have cut front line services. Like other councils, East Devon knows that to keep core service delivery intact now and for the future, we are increasingly reliant on income generated from business rates, new homes bonus and critically, from income that we generate ourselves.
We have to recognise that less than 25% of the council’s income is generated through council tax, leaving 75%, which the council needs to generate itself to keep vital front line services secure. This means developing a more innovative and commercial mind-set in our decision making particularly where it relates to service delivery and the management of our assets.
Our journey has already begun. Guided by the principles and key themes in our Transformation Strategy 2018 – 2028, we are taking a long term view of our finances and the economic context in which we are operating.
Our aim is to develop greater financial resilience so that we can safeguard council services both now and in the future. The Transformation Strategy sets out our approach:
- WorkSmart – reducing our office accommodation footprint and working more efficiently. This means more mobile and flexible working supported by the right technology in the right place at the right time. The relocation of East Devon from Knowle, Sidmouth to Exmouth Town Hall and Honiton is set to save the council £6m over the next 20 years.
- Open for business – responding to the increasing number of our residents who wish to transact on-line; improving our efficiency as well as the customer experience online.
- Systems thinking – ensuring that our services are designed around ‘what matters’ to our customers and communities; cutting out wasteful and costly processes. This approach has seen our benefits service reduce its cost base while becoming one of our flagship services and the 4th highest performing in the country.
- Focus on income generation – ensuring that we are maximising the use of our assets through commercial thinking. With a greater focus on commercialisation, we are working towards generating income through a green waste service; taking a more commercial view of new lease/rental arrangements, delivering a greater provision of business units across the district; business development activities and a fundamental review of our assets with town and parish councils.
- Active pursuit of alternative service delivery methods and models - we already share corporate services such as IT, audit and procurement. We have also set up a housing company which is focused on delivering housing provision across the district as well as having huge potential to generate significant income. We also want to explore greater community involvement in service delivery.
As the council is developing a more commercial approach to generate income for key council services, consultation with our residents and business will be key - for example, consultations about various car parks and public toilets and consultations about other initiatives including how we can make our assets more commercial and income generating, where appropriate in all the circumstances.