Tough times ahead: Council leader's open letter to town

By Michael Upton | 20/07/2010 11 comments

Tough times ahead: Council leader's open letter to town

HARD decisions, job losses and cuts to public services are on the way, the leader of Rotherham Borough Council warned this week.

In an open letter to taxpayers, Cllr Roger Stone laid out the daunting future facing the borough’s residents, admitting: “Tough times lie ahead.”

He added: “The situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented.

“It is inevitable that some services will have to stop.

“The decisions we are taking now will make a difference to the lives of people in Rotherham for years to come, and we take our responsibilities very seriously.”

What do you think of Cllr Stone's statement? Use the "write a comment" button to post your views.

Cllr Stone did not give details of where any cuts would come but said that a full review of the local authority’s 2010/11 budget was now under way.

The council leader said that reductions already announced, such as a reduction of £6 million revenue in grant funding and the loss of £3 million in Local Area Agreement reward cash, would hit Rotherham hard.

A possible freeze on council tax increases would also take its toll on council coffers, he added.

Parts of the council are already facing deep cuts, with the Children and Young People’s Services department having to save £2.4 million despite finishing 2009/10 more than £4 million in the red.

Despite the bleak future he outlined, Cllr Stone insisted that the council would take “a calm and measured approach to our decision-making” and that “the people of Rotherham are now, and will remain, our priority.”


Here is Cllr Stone’s letter in full:
'Dear Sir, It is clear from the announcements made in recent weeks and the messages that are coming out of the new coalition Government that tough times lie ahead for everyone.

We as a council—along with the rest of the public sector—are aware that we are facing some very difficult decisions.

In the light of the budget reductions being placed on local government, we have no choice but to look seriously at all our current and future spending plans.

The situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented.

We will not be able to shy away from the fact that there are areas where we will need to prioritise, to become more efficient, and to deliver better public services with even greater value for money.

However, what I can tell the people of Rotherham now is that our priority will be to protect services—particularly those which mean most to our vulnerable families and groups.

We will scrutinise the way we do business and challenge the ways in which we work to ensure that in the future, with a much reduced budget, the most-needed services can continue.

Our focus must be on the customers we serve, the communities and families of Rotherham—and not on the structure of our organisation.

We will identify where we can work with our partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors more effectively and efficiently.

There may be areas where we can transform our services by being more creative about how they are delivered, and it is true to say that there are some areas where we believe it is in the best interests of local people for services to be delivered in new and different ways, and possibly even by other organisations.

It is inevitable that some services will have to stop.

Where we believe services, projects and initiatives are delivering clear benefits to communities in Rotherham, we will fight for them to continue - even where national funding has been withdrawn.

Good examples of this will include the continuation of free swimming for younger and older people, at least until the end of the summer holidays, the continuation of work to ensure community cohesion, and the work successfully undertaken to attract new business and other investment into Rotherham.

As you will appreciate, these discussions have been underway for some time, as they are lengthy and complex.  The decisions we are taking now will make a difference to the lives of people in Rotherham for years to come, and we take our responsibilities very seriously.

For that reason, we are avoiding the temptation to respond with knee-jerk reactions, and we are taking a calm and measured approach to our decision-making, which will be based around the priorities which as a council we have agreed to focus on:

  •  Making sure no community is left behind.
  •  Providing quality education, ensuring people have opportunities to improve their  skills, learn and get a job.
  • Ensuring care and protection are available for those people who need it most.
  • Helping to create safe and healthy communities.
  • Improving the environment.

The scale of the financial challenge is so great that we have decided to revisit our spending plans for this year and revise the 2010/2011 budget which was agreed by Full Council in March.

Myself and my elected member colleagues will do so in the light of the huge reductions already announced, such as a reduction of £6 million revenue in the grant funding we receive to deliver specific services—on top of the pressures we were already facing this year.

There could be a freeze on council tax increases, and we will also lose £3 million in Local Area Agreement reward grant - recognition for successes already achieved - on which a number of innovations and new developments for the future had been based.

We are working hard to reprofile our spending so that we can concentrate on using the remaining LAA reward grant for priority activities.

We also have to look ahead and anticipate the likely impact of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review, which is scheduled for the autumn, and the effects of which are likely to be felt for some years to come.

A significant amount of the council budget is employee salaries and, regrettably, it is unlikely that we will be able to deliver a new budget without the loss of some staff - although we will be seeking to keep the number to a minimum—alongside the “freeze” which we currently have in place on all but the most essential job vacancies.

We have already informed staff that for a limited period, a number of flexible working options are being made available to help reduce our wage bill and minimise the need for redundancy, which the council seeks to avoid wherever possible.

These include part-time working, term-time only working, unpaid career breaks, buying additional leave and early or flexible retirement.

All applications will be considered but not necessarily approved, depending upon the costs to be incurred and the requirements of the individual service where they work.

Where we are forced to lose staff, the council will adhere to the principles of transparency and fairness, and will work to minimise the trauma for any staff involved.

We are at the start of what will be a very long process, which will see unprecedented changes in the way local authorities work.

Increasingly, we will be helping people to help themselves while protecting non-negotiable services which provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.

Wherever possible, we will be talking to our communities and to our staff about the best way in which to deliver those changes.

Tough times and tough decisions lie ahead—but the people of Rotherham are now, and will remain, our priority.

Cllr Roger Stone
Rotherham Borough Council.

  • I have every respect for the work social workers do, as well as every other council worker (dont single yourself out as the most deserving) but to read your comments, which you obviously made during working time (with exception to one entry)makes me a little concerned about your priorities - use your time at work to work, and not moan - you can do this to your hearts content in your own time!

    concernedenough. Fri 23 Jul 14:53:53.

  • But there's the problem, no quality or innovation just big fat salries and lots of spin and flash, no substance and no understanding, an utter waste of tax payers money which could fund better services

    Social Worker. Thu 22 Jul 15:33:20.

  • One would think that the Council would have the Quality & Innovation to see where best the savings could be made????!!!

    Only a number. Thu 22 Jul 12:28:39.

  • Allow staff more freedom to make decisions. Assist them to take responsibility and to enthuse about their projects. Support them in their sometimes failures. Then we might have a fully committed and considerably more productive workforce than currently exists. RMBC needs a dramatic shakeup and rethink of its org and processes in order to become more efficient, intelligent and enthusiastic BEFORE it starts thinking of redundancy and money savings.

    redpola. Thu 22 Jul 10:37:12.

  • Agree again Mr manvers. There are a significant number of staff in all fiunctions in Adylt& Housing working really really hard but there are some who are overpaid, contribute nothing and call them selves "executive" managers. How can that be justified when services to older and vulnerable peole risk being cut?

    Social Worker. Tue 20 Jul 16:26:30.

  • The distressing thing about all this talk of cuts is how it is setting people against one another. Social workers are deserving, but back office staff have got mortgages and families too. They're not all sitting doing nowt!

    Mr Manvers. Mon 19 Jul 14:56:09.

  • I agree with you entirely Oldboy, as social workers we just want to do a good job and we are crying out to be properly supported. people are at risk becuase there aren't enough of us. Its not about moaning about being managed, we'd welcome strong and supportibve management, its just not right when Rotherham's people money is being spent on back office services that add no value or "innovation", that's jobs for the boys not jobs for the people.

    Social Worker. Mon 19 Jul 10:09:07.

  • My Contacts tell me that the use of Town hall facilities, for none Council business, ie political party use, is free or only a token cost. Make them pay the full cost. Plus Councillers get free tea and coffe in their buildings, at your cost!

    Oldboycomeback. Sun 18 Jul 10:04:10.

  • Get rid of ALL superfluous publishing and translation services, and the non-jobs

    SydneyHalder. Sun 18 Jul 07:34:38.

  • Interesting to read Social Workers Comment. Whilst I do not wish to tar all social workers in Rotherham with the same brush, the majority are well intentioned and well motivated. However their are those in that claim "intimidation" when ever their their managers lifts their head and decides to manage a team, some Social Workers have got away with doing next to nothing for years. Obviously other than complain publicly about being asked to do their job.

    Oldboycomeback. Fri 16 Jul 17:16:54.

  • it will be interesting to see if Cllr Stone is true to his word or if bullying and intimidation is continued to be used to make these budget savings. He may well think the process is transparent but there is nothing transparent about the inflated salaries and waistlines in adults and housing. Covering up intimidation seems to be our councils main aim.

    Social Worker. Fri 16 Jul 09:43:49.

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