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Council for the Future transformation programme

council for the future

What is Hertfordshire County Council’s council for the future transformation programme?
Hertfordshire County Council needs to reduce its annual budget by around 25% by 2014/15. Our council for the future transformation programme is how we are doing this. From a thorough review of our services back in 2009, we identified a number of initiatives which would help us make savings with minimal impact on frontline services.

Background

Back in the early part of 2009, as the nation realised the full extent of the financial challenges it was facing, it became clear that local government would have to play its part in helping to reduce the national deficit. Soon after the election, the government announced that on average, grants to local government would be cut by around 28% by 2014/15. This presented us a significant challenge. The demands on our resources are rising year-on-year, because of factors such as inflation, and the fact that people are living longer, and needing more care.

We started our preparation early – during the summer of 2009. Consequently, we were one of the first local authorities to be in a position to start planning for how we were going to meet the shortfall, through a radical programme of transformation.

How much do we have to save?

We have to reduce our annual budget by around £200m by 2014/15.

What has happened so far?

The first thing we did was put our own house in order, re-designing our organisation, delayering management and reducing the amount of non-schools people we employ. But internal restructuring alone wouldn’t help us reach the target. Clearly, we had to look at making savings within the services we delivered. The savings needed represent about a quarter of our ongoing annual spend. However, rather than simply cutting budgets 25%, we took a more intelligent approach, making changes where they would have the least impact.

We identified libraries and street-lighting as two areas of significant expenditure which were not acute services like our social care or our fire and rescue operation, and which we could trim – not cut – while times were hard.

Our endeavour with libraries was not to close any local libraries, but to trim opening hours, in consultation with local library users, to levels which we could afford.

The approach with street-lighting was similar. Our policy is now to switch off the majority of streetlights across the county between midnight and 6am when most residents are in bed.

The funding of home-to-school transport for pupils who are not entitled to it will also undergo significant reductions, following painstaking reviews and consultations and a lot of pro-active work with schools to help them to plan alternatives.

How are we doing so far?

We have solved nearly three quarters of the problem. The last quarter will most likely be the hardest – but we have already made some progress.

So what next?

We are looking at how we can make our limited resources go further by teaming up with other organisations, and sharing budgets in some areas. We are using the latest technology to provide more services online. We are making significant savings in our care budget by helping people to avoid those distressing falls which all too often lead to an elderly person having to go into a care home. And we are working with our partners to provide intensive and lasting support to families facing multiple problems, giving the children of those families a chance of a better life – expensive in the short term, but with a massive payback in terms of the cost to social services, longer-term. For further detail on some of the work we are doing, see the case studies below.