"Essex still has great services...and we’ve saved £500million" Bullish Essex County Council chief David Finch's message to the public

Essex County Cuncil leader David Finch

Essex County Cuncil leader David Finch

First published in News

ESSEX has been leading the way in becoming leaner and more effective as the Government forces county councils across the country to slash costs.

That’s the claim of one of the county’s most influential councillors, David Finch, who has celebrated a year as leader of Essex County Council.

He says councillors and officials have managed to deliver the range of services expected of them, while cutting their budget by almost half a billion pounds during the austerity programme.

And he insists other authorities around the country have noted, with jealousy, the way Essex has coped, and want to follow suit.

Mr Finch, who started in local politics 19 years ago, said: “We knewwe had a job to do in terms of the Government’s austerity programme and we have seen grant reductions.

“We know to compensate for that we had to find savings within our own authority.

“We had, before May, saved the best part of £300million, through finding better ways of doing things and better procurement, and now we will have saved nearly half a billion pounds.

“My challenge is we are not cutting services, we are reforming and reshaping services to fit the financial envelope.

“Our ambition and our goal is to make sure, as best we can, we will deliver those services to the residents. I think we have been successful up until now.

“For example, the youth service grant was significantly reduced by about £12million over last year and this year. But we have worked with the youth service to make sure the provisions they needed were there.

“Through the budget process this year, we have put an extra £1million into the fixtures and fittings for the youth service.

“It goes to the heart of being innovative and doing things differently, but still delivering the same services needed.”

FINCH ON... 

Budget success

WE have set a budget for the fourth year running with a zero council tax increase. We’ve put additional money in the budget – another £4.8million into highways for road maintenance, £12million into additional road maintenance, £500,000 into apprenticeship schemes, £1million into the youth service and £1.4million into vulnerable adults.

Flooding

WE have put £3million into remedial flood work to unblock drains and put in new pipes. We were the only county to put that sizeable sum of money to respond to the flooding. We have put money to support Tendring with its flooding and its marina development as part of the economic growth agenda, and in the north of the county, we lobbied the Environment Agency to put a £4million scheme in there.

Cutting staff

INEVITABLY, when you look at new ways of working and greater efficiencies, you find you can be leaner.

We are a responsible authority. If people wanted to be retrained, we did it; if people wanted to leave of their own accord, we haven’t replaced; and if people wanted voluntary redundancy, we allowed that.

We are a caring organisation – we care about our people. We have 8,000 staff – four years ago we had between 8,500 and 9,000 staff. And 99.9 per cent of people work here because they want to make a difference.

Cutting costs

WE are looking at how we can do things differently to deliver services, rather than being labelled as a cost-cutting and service-cutting organisation. That’s not the name of the game for us at Essex County Council.

Essex ‘excellence’

WE have set up a Skills Board that is probably the best in the country and that Vince Cable said was better than the national Skills Board. We have worked with district colleagues with economic plans across Essex. Our Neet – young people Not in Education, Employment, or Training – is probably the lowest in the country at 4.6 per cent. There are ten per cent more schools in a “good” and “outstanding” category than there were a year or two years ago.

Streetlights switch-off

WE conducted two pilot schemes and we evaluated those risks. Twenty per cent of the lights are left on in accident blackspots, for the night-time economy, and roundabouts, and we work closely with the police so lights come on where there have been incidents. I live in a rural area. There are no pavements and no street lights – if I go outside my house, I carry a torch. We need a bit of realism. Each light is individually controlled, and it’s a contributor to the savings we need to make.

If the police are supportive, we could, for example, turn on one light in three. There may be a fear of crime, but it’s a perception. That apprehension is perfectly normal. But the reality is Essex is one of the safest counties in the country. There is great work being done by our police. Inevitably you’re going to get incidents, but we are safe compared to other counties. People need to take comfort from that, I think.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

THE economy is improving. We have seen more people in employment, and more housebuilding nationally and within the county.

And although I think there is still a long road to walk down, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The challenge for us should always be that we develop and deliver value for money in everything we do. Are we doing it in the most efficient way? And are we delivering it at the lowest cost?

Future of the bus service In some cases, we are paying a subsidy of £13.33 per traveller. We need to think smarter about that.

If we thought about how to deliver bus services and travel in a different way, we could probably still deliver what needs to be delivered for the majority of the people, but at a lower cost. I don’t see an end point in challenging ourselves or our creativity.

Comments (10)

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3:51pm Tue 1 Jul 14

emcee says...

I have never heard such self congratulatory, self backslapping poppycock from a council that is so far removed from understanding the requirements of its residents it may as well be lost at sea somewhere, south of Australia. I am surprised the Echo has the gaul to publish it.
I have never heard such self congratulatory, self backslapping poppycock from a council that is so far removed from understanding the requirements of its residents it may as well be lost at sea somewhere, south of Australia. I am surprised the Echo has the gaul to publish it. emcee
  • Score: 21

4:07pm Tue 1 Jul 14

runwellian says...

The road are worse than the unmade roads of the 40's / 50's, so much money has been squandered on speed humps tat are agony fro anyone with bone / joint problems.
This pompous **** needs to get out of his smart office and see the state of our streets.

As for street lighting, we have the same poor quality street light that was here when our homes were built in the 30's, given to day technology, if he had a brain he could have made good use of solar power and replaced the pointless lighting we have now. I would not walk up my street after dusk!

What planet to do these folk live on and has he ever been around our streets to see the state of them?

Ho sad it is that folk are afraid to go out after dusk, let alone in the dark, speed humps are a hazard, why not put in speed cameras, better still get off your backside and tour the real world!
The road are worse than the unmade roads of the 40's / 50's, so much money has been squandered on speed humps tat are agony fro anyone with bone / joint problems. This pompous **** needs to get out of his smart office and see the state of our streets. As for street lighting, we have the same poor quality street light that was here when our homes were built in the 30's, given to day technology, if he had a brain he could have made good use of solar power and replaced the pointless lighting we have now. I would not walk up my street after dusk! What planet to do these folk live on and has he ever been around our streets to see the state of them? Ho sad it is that folk are afraid to go out after dusk, let alone in the dark, speed humps are a hazard, why not put in speed cameras, better still get off your backside and tour the real world! runwellian
  • Score: 8

4:22pm Tue 1 Jul 14

Touch79 says...

'we work closely with the police so lights come on where there have been incidents.'

Does he seriously believe the police are involved in every incident? No use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted either.

'If the police are supportive, we could, for example, turn on one light in three.'

Then do that then, it's better than nothing. If the police are not supportive then you're not talking to the ones that are trying to work when there isn't enough light to do your job as efficiently and safely as you should.
'we work closely with the police so lights come on where there have been incidents.' Does he seriously believe the police are involved in every incident? No use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted either. 'If the police are supportive, we could, for example, turn on one light in three.' Then do that then, it's better than nothing. If the police are not supportive then you're not talking to the ones that are trying to work when there isn't enough light to do your job as efficiently and safely as you should. Touch79
  • Score: 8

6:57pm Tue 1 Jul 14

Last Poster says...

Yes, first class indeed. I have visited ECC street lighting website over the last three years, and the failed refuge island at the bottom of the Gore in Basildon is as dark as it was the first day I reported it. The "Give Way" sign at the junction og the Gore and Ghyllgrove is still facing along the adjacent pathway instead of towards the junction (Light not working of course), and , adjacent to that is the street light that doesn't work as ever. Further up the Gore is the traffic calming kerbing, on the north side used to be a solar powered "Keep right" sign. This is a 50mm pole sticking up around 60cm and, if a cyclist doesn't see this he, like two cars that I know of could end up hitting this and sadly impaled on it. But there is absolutely no point in reporting it anymore as, after 4 times reported by me it is still just as dangerous. Our own representatives, including this smug Bartholomew, are taking our money and not serving us. I would love him to explain why, even after several visits by his lighting contractors, he chooses not to have these dangerous items repaired. If any pedestrians get mown down on the unlit refuge, I will make sure people know that his smugness says it's all fine!
Yes, first class indeed. I have visited ECC street lighting website over the last three years, and the failed refuge island at the bottom of the Gore in Basildon is as dark as it was the first day I reported it. The "Give Way" sign at the junction og the Gore and Ghyllgrove is still facing along the adjacent pathway instead of towards the junction (Light not working of course), and , adjacent to that is the street light that doesn't work as ever. Further up the Gore is the traffic calming kerbing, on the north side used to be a solar powered "Keep right" sign. This is a 50mm pole sticking up around 60cm and, if a cyclist doesn't see this he, like two cars that I know of could end up hitting this and sadly impaled on it. But there is absolutely no point in reporting it anymore as, after 4 times reported by me it is still just as dangerous. Our own representatives, including this smug Bartholomew, are taking our money and not serving us. I would love him to explain why, even after several visits by his lighting contractors, he chooses not to have these dangerous items repaired. If any pedestrians get mown down on the unlit refuge, I will make sure people know that his smugness says it's all fine! Last Poster
  • Score: 3

7:11pm Tue 1 Jul 14

Last Poster says...

The services from ECC have been in a decline for a few years now. Try reporting a lighting defect, such as the traffic refuge at the bottom of The Gore in Basildon that has not had lighting for around 18 months, despite being reported frequently, along with the "Give Way" sign, not illuminated and 90 degrees out of alignment, the adjacent street light, also very dark, and the missing "Keep right" solar-powered sign on the traffic calming island a couple of hundred yards further up The Gore, which, after being damage by a car was left laying in the grass across the road for months. In its place is a 60cm x 5cm steel pole which if a cyclist should fall onto when he hits the non illuminated calming restriction, could actually penetrate him and kill him. This man is a pillar of modern society's smugness. I guess he's blind in one eye and uses this to look through his telescope and say: "I see no ships"
The services from ECC have been in a decline for a few years now. Try reporting a lighting defect, such as the traffic refuge at the bottom of The Gore in Basildon that has not had lighting for around 18 months, despite being reported frequently, along with the "Give Way" sign, not illuminated and 90 degrees out of alignment, the adjacent street light, also very dark, and the missing "Keep right" solar-powered sign on the traffic calming island a couple of hundred yards further up The Gore, which, after being damage by a car was left laying in the grass across the road for months. In its place is a 60cm x 5cm steel pole which if a cyclist should fall onto when he hits the non illuminated calming restriction, could actually penetrate him and kill him. This man is a pillar of modern society's smugness. I guess he's blind in one eye and uses this to look through his telescope and say: "I see no ships" Last Poster
  • Score: 2

8:23pm Tue 1 Jul 14

Fab man says...

Saved £500 million eh! This suggests that services were not being run right in the first place and the 'reform & reshaping' is business talk for dumping work on already overworked staff so savings are being made at the expense of deteriorating service. I suppose the county councillors can now self-congratulate themselves by awarding themselves payrises & going on pointless expensive taxpayer-funded jollies.
Saved £500 million eh! This suggests that services were not being run right in the first place and the 'reform & reshaping' is business talk for dumping work on already overworked staff so savings are being made at the expense of deteriorating service. I suppose the county councillors can now self-congratulate themselves by awarding themselves payrises & going on pointless expensive taxpayer-funded jollies. Fab man
  • Score: 5

8:54pm Tue 1 Jul 14

white_van_ man says...

So does that mean there's £500million going spare some where cause you sure haven't spent it. So where is it?
So does that mean there's £500million going spare some where cause you sure haven't spent it. So where is it? white_van_ man
  • Score: 0

9:21am Wed 2 Jul 14

CarnMountification says...

Knighthood for this champion I see coming, well done
Knighthood for this champion I see coming, well done CarnMountification
  • Score: 1

12:28pm Wed 2 Jul 14

Ian P says...

David Finch said: "And although I think there is still a long road to walk down, there is light at the end of the tunnel". Please do not let Rodney Bass hear you say that or he will have that one turned off as well.
David Finch said: "And although I think there is still a long road to walk down, there is light at the end of the tunnel". Please do not let Rodney Bass hear you say that or he will have that one turned off as well. Ian P
  • Score: 1

12:32pm Wed 2 Jul 14

cropped hero says...

Echo - you have surpassed yourself. How do you spell COUNCIL?
Echo - you have surpassed yourself. How do you spell COUNCIL? cropped hero
  • Score: 0

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