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Email warning of millions of planned 'savings' seen by Royal Borough staff

Georgina Bishop

Georgina Bishop

The acting managing director of the Royal Borough sent an email to staff last month warning of plans to make ‘savings’ of just under £9m next year.

An email from Russell O’Keefe to RBWM staff on Monday, November 12, seen by the Advertiser, detailed the council’s budget pressures of £7.4m in 2018/19, £4m from children’s services.

However, it was sent before the Government announced it would end negative revenue support grants, which could save the council £2m.

In the email, Mr O’Keefe said that underachievement against income targets in different areas and previous savings not achieved also added to the pressures.

The finance update showed that, with savings and mitigations in place, there was still a net projected overspend for the council of £1.54m at the end of year 2018/19.

Mr O’Keefe said that savings proposals ‘being worked on and progressed’ included  arrangements with Achieving for Children, children’s services provider, and Optalis, which provides care for the elderly and disabled adults.

Also proposed were staffing reductions, no staff pay awards for 2019/2020, the introduction of parking charges for councillors and letting of space in York House, Windsor, to realise income.

Mr O’Keefe said that a ‘robust and prudent’ budget for 2019/20 was needed so that the council is ‘only spending the minimum’  in order to ‘effectively deliver our priorities and meet our duties’.

Steve Torrance, regional secretary of the public sector trade union Unison said: “The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s justification for these cuts has, so far, been vague at best.

“Hard-working council staff are under threat of losing their jobs and those that survive will have their pay frozen. These ideological and unnecessary cuts will have a dire impact on locals services,

affecting some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

David Knowles-Leak, chairman of the Maidenhead Constituency Labour Party, said: “In addition to those losing their jobs, it will be the most vulnerable in society that will bear the brunt. There will be many in this borough who depend on these most critical of services, and uncertainty will be their watchword going forward.”

The draft budget for 2019/2020 will be formally be considered by scrutiny panels before cabinet considers it on February 7. It will then go to full council for approval on February 26.

In a response released this week, leader of the council, Cllr Simon Dudley said: “All councils are experiencing challenging financial positions and we are no different to the rest of the country.

“There are pressures in our children’s services and we are currently managing a £4m pressure for 2018/19.

“I wrote to Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education earlier this year and this letter sets out our areas of concern, specifically around the children’s services pressure and how they can support local government more.

“The confirmation in the local government financial settlement of no negative RSG (revenue support grant) and 75 per cent localisation of business rates for 2019/20 (see p11) will be worth in the region of £4 million to the Royal Borough.

“Therefore our final budget setting process will reflect this additional news for residents.

“In addition, council officers are working on a range of proposals to deliver a balanced and prudent budget for 19/20 and we will be carrying out reviews of all services that we provide to ensure any further savings can be considered as the budget is prepared for next year.

“We will continue to keep staff informed as we develop our final budget and consult where appropriate as we move through this process.”

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