Cornwall Council Budget Scrutiny – Day 5
Day 5 was the turn of the Corporate Resources OSC. They cover a multitude of functions including IT, Chief Exec Dept, Finance, Communications to name a few of the areas. The final day of scrutiny process ended more with a fizzle, than a bang. This was because the briefings that various officers gave were very good. No real ambiguity, simple, clear facts on staff reductions, costs and savings. It was there for all to see and examine. For me it was the best presentations of the week. Questions were asked and answers were given.
A question on software licences got raised on the likelihood of moving over to ‘open source’ software. Basically it could save Cornwall Council a lot of money from paying high prices from the likes of Microsoft and others. I know it’s not just that simple as changing software, as the software has to be adaptable to the systems that the Council uses. The Head of IT did say there is real room for savings in this area and they were seriously looking at moving over to more open sourced software. He also mentioned that they were in negations with Microsoft on their charges and said they would not just pay what Microsoft wanted. I believe there are some real big savings to be made, especially in schools.
The question of One Stop Shops (OSS) and localism got raised. Again, they said clear savings of about £400k needed to be made. Questions were asked as to how. The officers replied that no decision had been made on if (if any) of these OSS would be closed. I feel that we will see some closed, and/or amalgamated with Libraries. It does make sense of having one Council building in a town that has a multi-use function. I just hope no town is left without these services. I guess we will have to wait and see on that one.
I personally felt by attending and taking part in all of the scrutiny meetings that whilst I don’t agree with all the decisions and cuts, I really do understand the real pressures that Cornwall Council faces in the next few years. We are going to lose £170 million over this period. With 10%-12.7% proposed to be cut in the first year. It’s a huge amount in any ones books and it’s not easily achieved. It would make it easier if we did get to grips with senior staff wages, consultants and procurement. Then just maybe we will make it work. I find it hard when explaining to people about the cuts and how bad they are, they they raise wages in response. I have no answer but to agree something has to be done on that front, and soon.
Now we have to see if those changes and alternatives made by the scrutiny committees make it to the final recommendations that will be present by Cabinet to full Council. If not, then I guess there is going to be a real battle on the 30th November