CASTLE Point Council is gearing up to launch a huge costcutting operation which could see it share services with other authorities.
The council is preparing a three-year transformation programme called “Operation Darwin” because the Government has slashed its budget by £722,000 from £3.75million in 2013/14 to £2.98million this year.
Future cuts for 2015/16 are expected to be about £660,000, representing a further 22 per cent reduction.
To cope with the cuts, the authority will be embarking on major restructuring which could see the start of preparations to merge the council with others in south Essex. Further details of Operation Darwin will be released in coming months but will involve adopting a more efficient approach to the running of the council and looking at services to make sure the right people are delivering the job.
Jeffrey Stanley, deputy leader of the Conservative-run authority, said: “We have about £700,000 less funding from Government which is a significant amount.
“While we have a long history of being prudent with our spending and looking for efficiencies to deliver a balanced budget, there must come a point where it is not possible for us to save any more money internally.
“Knowing we will come to that stage, the council is looking at a new policy to see what could be done to balance the budget in future years. We would like to say we have been as efficient as we can, but we are always able to squeeze another drop from the costs of running our services.
“It’s too early to say what the results will be, but it might involve the shared management of services with other authorities who are in exactly the same position as we are.
“Fortunately because finances are so strong we have some time, but other councils might not.
However this will not be done “within three years as it will require approval from Government.”
In the past year, the authority has had to make £1.1million in savings to balance the books including £338,000 from re-negotiations on street cleaning and grounds maintenance contracts and £183,000 from staff related cost cuts.
Mr Stanley said the authority has had to make “significant” cuts to staff in recent years but said hopefully the worst is behind them.
"It will be better together"
IT is “inevitable” Southend, Castle Point and Rochford will join together to deliver services for residents in the future.
That’s the view of Southend Council’s leader Nigel Holdcroft, above, speaking after being told about Castle Point’s plans.
Mr Holdcroft is stepping down from his post after seven years as leader in May.
He said: “My own view is we would be doing the residents of south-east Essex a great service if we were to join together as one authority.”