Councillor Patrick Harley

Spending controls save £4.5m to date

Around £4.5m of savings have been made since Dudley Council introduced rigorous spending controls last autumn to support the financial stability of the authority.

The measures are designed to minimise spending and include a recruitment freeze, stopping any new contracts and terminating agency and interim contracts.

At next Wednesday’s cabinet, members will hear a review of the controls to date and are also recommended to approve a revised process moving forwards.

In the first four months, spending controls have primarily focussed on the workforce. All existing agency, interim and fixed term employment contracts have been reviewed and terminated, with exceptions for those needed to maintain essential services and the council’s ability to function.

Going forward, this process is being tightened to ensure consistency across the council, with controls over recruitment going through a two-stage process.

It is also proposed that samples of invoices and purchase card transactions will be reviewed to ensure spending controls are being followed across the authority. 

The spending controls are part of the first phase of the council’s improvement and sustainability programme.

The council has set a target to identify and deliver savings (including increases to income from services) of £37.4m over the next three years, compared to the current budget. It is looking to identify as much as possible during 2024/25.

In a separate report going to the meeting, members will be given an update on the programme and will hear that £17.4m has already been identified - this includes charging for green waste collections, a review of school catering and rationalisation of office buildings.

To reach the remaining target of £20million, reviews will be carried out across all services, with options to cease, reduce, outsource, merge or transform them to be as cost-effective as possible.

A number of workstreams have also been established to identify and deliver improvements to ensure the council is fit for the future and financially sustainable. 

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said:

We have taken swift action to get a firmer grip on our finances and this first phase of implementing spending controls has resulted in savings of £4.5million. There has also been a further £17.4million of savings agreed in the budget agreed at full council. That is one step closer to avoiding a section 114 based on sound financial decisions by this cabinet.

Our work on a future operating model will also make us more efficient and cost effective to drive this authority forward and deliver more savings.

But we still have a lot of work to do and through our improvement and sustainability programme we will continue to work to get this authority back on an even-footing financially while protecting essential services for our residents.

Meanwhile, in a separate report on the night, members of the cabinet will be asked to suspend the council plan and replace it with a new one-year plan that is more in line with the council’s challenging financial position. It lists priorities within spend controls and the council’s improvement and sustainability programme.

It includes financial sustainability, efficiency and providing best value; Governance and control; Leadership and culture; Delivering for our customers, residents and communities; and supporting businesses and the local economy.

All three reports will be considered by members of the cabinet at their next meeting on Wednesday March 20

Last year, a Local Government Association-led peer review highlighted a number of areas of concern around the council’s financial position which was backed up by an annual independent audit.

The council responded with a series of measures including setting up an Improvement and Assurance Board (IAB) and implementing the spending controls.

The meeting takes place at the council house in Dudley on March 20 from 6pm.

Contact Information

Dudley Council