Cabinet members have agreed radical changes to the council’s top team structure as they look to save money and review ways of working and service provision, at a time of high inflation, rising energy cost and a widening budget gap.
The council recognises that organisational transformation, working differently, reducing obstacles to decision making, being smarter where they can, reduces the pressure to cut the services they wish to provide.
As a first step on Wednesday evening, Cabinet will agree the initial phase of a senior management restructure, to take effect from 1 December 2022, which will save at least £200K a year.
The management restructuring would see the organisation become more fluid and flexible and less hierarchical, in line with the results of an internal listening exercise and analysis by leading management consultants, Red Quadrant.
Structural transformation will not be sufficient on its own, however. The council will continue to review opportunities to reduce costs and to ensure a sustainable budget can be set for 2023/24 onwards.
Cllr David King, Leader of Colchester Borough Council said: “How our council works matters, and I welcome the first of many steps to ensure we deliver well at least cost, that we remove barriers to performance and encourage our great officers to crack on knowing they have the freedom to decide and deliver at best pace and least cost.
“This will need a cultural change for some, which I will help address, to include how we build on the great work we already do in partnership with other organisations in Colchester, and how we do this in the context of intense pressure on resources and high demand for talent.
“We are committed to delivering and improving the services we provide for the people of Colchester. This means that some services must be delivered in a different way, but the most important point is that key services will still be available for the people that need that support. This is a tough time for us, like many across the country, and we must adapt to see change as an opportunity that will help make services more efficient and cost-effective for years to come.”
Cabinet will also approve an increase in fees and charges for 2023/24 to help fund and support council services, in the wake of in-year increases to crematorium and museums charges already announced.
Whilst the proposed fees and charges increases will mostly be kept below the forecast level of inflation, they are estimated to deliver a minimum further £100k of income next year. Since 2014, a flexible pricing framework has enabled the council to respond more quickly to market forces. This framework will continue to ensure the new fees and charges remain competitive, as the council weathers some stark financial challenges in the future.
Cllr Mark Cory, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: “The way we frame the future structure and operation of the council in response to significant financial challenges will shape the delivery of our services for years to come.
“We are taking the difficult decision to increase our fees and charges with great reluctance but knowing they will help the council to support residents through the cost-of-living crisis and make improvements to the Local Council Tax Support scheme and other key services. The increases will be in-line with our policies and only seek to cover inflationary pressures.
“We trust residents and visitors will understand the very challenging position we are in and the tough decisions that we have had to make.”