Impact of St Albans council budget cuts outlined

PROPOSALS for the restructuring of St Albans district council were outlined at a meeting this week.

The council, which currently has 409 full and part-time employees, could potentially have to reduce in size by up to 25 per cent due to cuts in local authority spending ordered by central government as part of the comprehensive spending review.

Chief executive Daniel Goodwin outlined the draft budget proposals at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday which included a number of ideas to streamline the council and reduce its structure to seven departments from the current 10.

That could see the IT service merging with the customer and HR functions, regulatory and environmental services merging with the legal and democratic department and the relocation of the internal audit department under finance.

Other ideas include moving naming and numbering under the legal department and integrating the benefits advice service under the mainstream customer services team, along with outsourcing a small number of responsibilities such as estates and property maintenance.

Mr Goodwin has also proposed that the council doesn’t replace two heads of service who have left, which he said would save the council between �100,000 and �120,000 a year. The council confirmed this week that the head of ICT, Mutairu Jibril, left the council at the end of July this year but the reasons for his departure are unknown.

Council staff were asked to give their opinions on what could be changed to make the organisation more efficient and a total of 170 responded with 19 main points, of which eight have been chosen to take forward.

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All staff have been offered voluntary redundancy or early retirement but Mr Goodwin said the ideas on the table at present would avoid any compulsory redundancies.

But the council has yet to learn what its annual Local Government Finance Settlement, due in early December, will be which could result in further cuts.

In addition, as county council services will also be affected, there will need to be clarification of the impact as a whole on the local community.

Cabinet councillors voted in favour of pushing ahead with further work on the proposed new management structure and approved a number of other recommendations including taking steps to minimise any impact on the vulnerable in the community and protecting voluntary sector grants.