Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lewisham Council. What are councillors doing to protect services and generate income?


Question
Q
Time

                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                         PUBLIC QUESTION NO.41 

                                                                                          Priority 3



LONDON BOROUGH OF LEWISHAM

COUNCIL MEETING

24 JUNE 2015


Question asked by:   Mr Woolford ; Lewisham People Before Profit

Member to reply:       Councillor Bonavia

Question

Lewisham Council cuts are set to have a devastating impact on the borough’s most in need. What income producing ideas and cuts to top staff salary and councillor allowance, as proposed by residents as part of the Council local assembly consultations, will the Council be implementing?

Reply

As part of the Council’s response in meeting the financial challenge over the coming years, officers have established an income generation programme.  Central to this is a review of all the Council’s services engaged in fees and charges activity with a view to fully understanding the cost base of such services to ensure that prices can be set at appropriate levels on an annual basis.

As part of the overall income generation programme, a target of some £3m over the lifetime of the programme (2015/16 to 2017/18) has been set.  For the current year of 2015/16, options to increase income by £850k have been identified, agreed and are being implemented.  These include:



·          Council Tax & Business Rates Review: working with the Behavioural Insights Team (previously part of the Cabinet Office) to develop a series of interventions aimed at increasing in year collection rates.

·          Schools Service Level Agreements (SLAs): proposal to undertake a joint piece of work with School Effectiveness to identify areas within Schools SLAs where prices could be increased (e.g. increase cost for the provision of financial services, begin charging for occupational health support to school staff)

·          Investments – Further anticipated income to be gained via the Council’s treasury management Investment strategy.

Some examples of the other ideas being developed by the officers include, examining options for increasing advertising income for the Council and the re-financing of private finance initiative (PFI) loan agreements with a view to reducing the interest on debt payments. 

It is also worth noting that the Council’s Public Accounts Select Committee is currently progressing an in-depth review into income generation.  Part of this work has sought examples of best practice that have been implemented by other local authorities, which officers at Lewisham will consider as part of the income generation programme. 

Councillor allowances

Changes to councillor allowances can arise following the commissioning of an independent review and consideration of the review outcomes at a Council meeting.  The Council has set aside the findings of the last two reviews which both recommended increases.  Allowances have therefore been frozen at their 2008/09 levels, following a decision taken at Council on 17 September 2014.  Taking into account inflation over that period, this represents a substantial cut in real terms.

Senior management pay

Between 2011/12 and 2014/15, no pay award was made to the Council’s chief officers.  During the same period, the number of senior manager posts reduced by 20%.  The Council reports senior management pay levels to the Independent Executive Remuneration Panel and this conforms to the relevant elements of the Hutton Fair Pay Code.









·          Council Tax & Business Rates Review: working with the Behavioural Insights Team (previously part of the Cabinet Office) to develop a series of interventions aimed at increasing in year collection rates.

·          Schools Service Level Agreements (SLAs): proposal to undertake a joint piece of work with School Effectiveness to identify areas within Schools SLAs where prices could be increased (e.g. increase cost for the provision of financial services, begin charging for occupational health support to school staff)

·          Investments – Further anticipated income to be gained via the Council’s treasury management Investment strategy.

Some examples of the other ideas being developed by the officers include, examining options for increasing advertising income for the Council and the re-financing of private finance initiative (PFI) loan agreements with a view to reducing the interest on debt payments. 

It is also worth noting that the Council’s Public Accounts Select Committee is currently progressing an in-depth review into income generation.  Part of this work has sought examples of best practice that have been implemented by other local authorities, which officers at Lewisham will consider as part of the income generation programme. 

Councillor allowances

Changes to councillor allowances can arise following the commissioning of an independent review and consideration of the review outcomes at a Council meeting.  The Council has set aside the findings of the last two reviews which both recommended increases.  Allowances have therefore been frozen at their 2008/09 levels, following a decision taken at Council on 17 September 2014.  Taking into account inflation over that period, this represents a substantial cut in real terms.

Senior management pay

Between 2011/12 and 2014/15, no pay award was made to the Council’s chief officers.  During the same period, the number of senior manager posts reduced by 20%.  The Council reports senior management pay levels to the Independent Executive Remuneration Panel and this conforms to the relevant elements of the Hutton Fair Pay Code.






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