Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils are considering a proposal to merge, creating a new District Council covering the whole of South Warwickshire (the areas currently covered by Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils).
The public consultation on the plans to create a South Warwickshire Council starts this week on Monday 6 September and runs until Sunday 24 October.
The consultation document and online questionnaire can be viewed and completed at: www.southwarwickshire.org.uk
1.1 The Council has, with Warwick District Council, commissioned Deloitte's to assess the potential savings from joint working between the two Councils. The work will encompass all the potential benefits from joint working, including the creation of a single Council with joint accommodation fully shared services and one set of councillors and meetings.
1.2 The work is still being finalised, but early indications are that significant savings could be achieved and the current budget proposals include savings in two areas.
1.3 This represents total savings of £1.25m per year by the end of the Medium Term Financial Plan period, and will attempt to use the synergy created by “merging" two councils to choose the most appropriate and cost-effective service provision in areas such as, but not limited to:
2.1 The Council undertook a review of car parking charges within existing car parks in 2019, with the intention of updating charges for the 2020/21 budget. Although the review was completed and increased charges agreed, the consultation process required could not be undertaken because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Council resolved to delay the implementation until 2021/21.
2.2 It is now the intention to introduce those charges for 2021/22, and in addition, a further review was considered at Cabinet on 11 January 2021, recommending a number of additional changes including:
2.3 The full savings and additional income identified in the original review was £500,000. This will depend on the deliberations of Cabinet, the budget currently has £230,000 included for the review, for 2021/22 and £330,000 thereafter.
3.1 The Council formerly had a leased car scheme as part of its recruitment and retention package. This scheme was ended for new staff 15 years ago. There are still staff who retain the right to a leased car under that scheme, currently 21 staff.
3.2 It is proposed to negotiate an end to this scheme with the union and staff representatives. It is likely that a one-off payment would be required to staff retaining the right, but the ongoing saving will eventually total £77,000 which will occur as each individual lease ends and will be phased over the period 2021/22 – 2024/25.
4.1 The budget in 2018/19 included a growth item for a new post of Economic Development Officer. This post has not been filled and would produce an annual saving of £22,000 if it were deleted. The proposal is given the severe pressure placed upon the Council's budget is to delete the post and provide economic development support from within existing staff resources.
5.1 A growth bid was agreed for 2018/19 to supplement the Council's contribution to the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations to cover the cost of security. The sum of £25,000 was agreed for 2018/19 only on the basis that a stakeholder group would come forward with a holistic approach to security costs for Stratford-upon-Avon events. This did not materialise and therefore it became necessary to submit a growth request for 2019/20 and this has been included since within the Council's base budget.
5.2 In addition to the cost of security the Council also contributes £28,500 pa towards the costs of holding of the event. It is acknowledged that the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations attracts global imagination and appeal, increases footfall and maximises the exposure for Stratford-upon-Avon and the wider District, enhancing financial support for the local economy.
5.3 Activities associated with the event generate a significant amount of media coverage with the number of mainstream articles amounting to more than 1,800 and the value of the mainstream media coverage amounting to more than £6,000,000.
5.4 With the current COVID tier restrictions in place it is assumed that the celebrations will not now take place in 2021. This is the end of the currently agreed funding for the additional security costs, and this will not be included in the budget in future, unless and until further proposals are brought forward for consideration by the Council. Removing the additional cost of security will mean that the £25,000 was included in the budget will be removed. However, the original budget of £28,500 will be retained to support the event into the future.
6.1 The proposal is to undertake a review of the cost and operation of the Visitor Information Centre with the ambition that by 2023/24 onwards there is a nil cost to the Council. This will produce a saving of £88,000. The timescale will allow the Council to review this service provision in conjunction with the joint working proposals for accommodation and office provision with Warwick District Council.
7.1 This service is provided in Stratford Town only and has limited usage which has further declined since the COVID restrictions have been put in place. The net cost to the Council of this service is £42,000 pa. This is a discretionary service which is unique to Stratford upon Avon. It is proposed to undertake a review with the view of seeking alternative delivery methods for the service which are cost neutral to the Council.
7.2 Funding is proposed for the whole of 2021/22 to provide the opportunity of progressing discussions with potential interested parties. In other locations the service is carried out by the voluntary and community sector. It is envisaged that the Council will make the equipment available to any future operator of the function.
8.1 A growth item was included in the 2019/20 budget: “To extend the funding agreement for the Tourism Destination Management Organisation known as Shakespeare's England Ltd for a further three years."
8.2 This covered the three years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22. In common with Warwick District Council, the Council agreed to contribute £75,000 to Shakespeare's England for this period. 2021/22 is therefore the end of the currently agreed funding, and future funding will be considered when proposals are brought forward for consideration by the Council.
9.1 The 2020/21 budget growth items included the following item: “On 8 July 2019 The Cabinet received a report on the outcome of the UBUS Community Transport Review. The report provided detailed context on the review of the service and justifications for reaching the recommendations. The Cabinet resolved to support the enhanced scheme, and to include the costs in the revenue budget from 2020/21 onwards. The cost of providing the enhanced service is £109,000 per year. The figure is split into two elements, approximately £89,000 which contributes towards Warwickshire County Council vehicle procurement and the balance £20,000 which will fund the booking centre and registration provision which, subject to the outcome of this Growth Bid, will be tendered following confirmation that the 2020/21 budget includes sufficient allocation of funding."
9.2 Following this decision a new agreement was signed and contract let. This contract runs until May 2024. It is proposed that the Council ceases to fund this service from that date and informs the County Council so that alternative funding proposals can be developed.
10.1 The property was formerly called Progress House and achieved a small contribution to the Council of £20,000. A review undertaken by Tandem Projects on behalf of the Council and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, which proposed setting up Venture House as a business centre. The project was on the basis that the Council would be “no worse off" following completion of the implementation.
10.2 In reality however, Venture House is a net cost to the Council and currently costs £41,000 per year to run. The budget proposal is to review the service provision and costs, including potential closure, of Venture House to save the £41,000, by 2023/24. It is hoped that a third party would take on the operation of the facility at nil cost to the Council, however, if the property is closed there could also be a capital sum of approximately £250,000.
11.1 Planning and Enforcement are major services provided by the Council. Development Control is a statutory service, Enforcement is discretionary, and the service raises significant income, but planning fees are set by the Government and have not been increased for several years.
11.2 The current position is that major planning applications from developers have reduced since the pandemic, however, minor and householder applications have increased and are at a five-year high. This has a knock-on impact on income, as fees for these are low – between £200 and £500 - and insufficient to cover the cost of processing them.
11.3 This change in the balance of work means that a review of systems and work programmes is required. The proposal is to undertake holistic review of how both Planning and Enforcement functions are delivered with the intention of streamlining service provision the aim being to produce savings of £75,000. This saving has been included from 2022/23 onwards to allow time for a thorough review by the Head of Service and Portfolio Holders.
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