Derbyshire County Council approves cuts to address £46m budget gap

Credit: Derbyshire County Council

Barry Lewis, Derby County Council leader, has announced a range of cost-cutting plans in an effort to reduce the authority’s predicted budget overspend of £46m.

The council’s says the surplus is “well beyond” emergency reserves, which are meant to cover legal requirements for a balanced budget and address other essential needs.

The council now plans to look at its earmarked reserves to manage the impending multimillion-pound deficit.

The council has stated that its aims to focus on safeguarding social and children’s services.

Cabinet approved a report outlining financial pressures in the current year and the cost-saving measures to address the overspend.

The announced cost-cutting measures include a recruitment freeze, reducing agency staff, cutting overtime, reviewing all agency staff, limiting non-essential activities like conferences and travel, focusing on health and safety repairs, reducing spending on print and IT equipment, delaying unsigned contracts, and postponing planning-stage projects.

External factors affecting the budget include higher-than-expected inflation, impacting various council expenses like fuel, energy, and materials.

The council notes that high inflation has also increased the demand for council services, especially in adult social care and children’s services.

Furthermore, the council has said that the 2023/24 pay award for its staff, set at the national level, is adding substantial financial strain to the authority, and this expense will need to come from the local council’s budgets.

The council has previously mentioned that it’s considering selling its County Hall building in Matlock, potentially being converted into a hotel, residential space, offices, or community facilities.

They have also previously announced intentions to close ten of its offices in the Chesterfield area. Additionally, it is exploring options like reduced operating hours and potential fees at its household waste tips.

Lewis said: “We are taking immediate action to control our spending.

“This is not a bankruptcy situation for this council, far from it. However, to be completely clear with our residents, employees and partners, this is a difficult situation and we must rise to the challenge.

“We have always been a well-managed, efficient and financially stable council which has balanced our books, maintained a robust level of reserves and been able to support vital, high quality, value-for-money services for our residents across Derbyshire.

“However, the reality is that the financial pressures we are facing, along with other councils and households, are now greater than ever experienced before, with most of these pressures being simply outside our control.

“The decision taken today by Cabinet is the first step on our journey to get our finances back on the right track.

“Our employees are now tasked with looking at every penny they spend, to make sure it is essential and value for money.”

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