The 3SG would like to thank Cllr Myers, Cllr Gerrish and Ashley Ayre for participating in a special engagement session we organised. Cllr Myers emphasised his wish to further improve the links between our communities and the Council and commitments were made by all to build on these discussions. It's clear that the budget challenges go beyond the next financial year and we need to work together over 2018 to identify opportunities and explore new ways of working. The full notes from this session are here:
1. Welcome and introduction
1. The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked Bath City Football Club for hosting the session.
2. Changing Together –The Council’s Budget Challenge and Pressures
2.1. The Chair introduced Cllr Myers, Cllr Gerrish and Ashley Ayre and welcomed them to the meeting. Cllr Myers began by emphasising his wish to further improve the links between our communities and the Council. This meeting,alongside the other Connecting Communities Forum meetings were an opportunity to build on discussions and working relationships. The budget challenges go beyond the next financial year and therefore this is an opportunity to work together over the next year to identify opportunities and explore new ways of working.
2.2 Cllr Myers introduced Councillor Gerrish who gave the presentation. Cllr Gerrish provided the background to the challenges facing the Council, as follows:
2.2.1 Last year the Council had to save a total £49m by 2020, but this has now risen to £58m by 2020. The changing role and funding of the local authority alongside increasing demands for adult social care and children’s services have placed greater pressure on the Council’s budget.
2. A lot of work has already been undertaken to identify savings and reduce the gap. £42m of savings have been identified but an additional £16million needs to be found by 2020. The Council is looking at proposals to:-
· Restructure the workforce and deliver staff savings
· Further reduce office accommodation
· Seek further efficiencies within social care while protecting the most vulnerable people.
· Explore opportunities for how discretionary services are delivered.
· Ensure statutory functions and front line services are maintained even if in a different form
· Explore more ideas around new income generation.
· Identify how the community can play an increasing role in delivering services.
3. Four key areas have been identified where communities can help to reduce demand and make our money go further. This included: Health &Wellbeing, Going Digital, Volunteering and the role of communities.
4. Cllr Gerrish explained that over the next 12 months further work would be undertaken to engage the community and explore further the four key areas.
5. A copy of the presentation can be found via the following link. http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/changing_together_presentation.pdf
6. The Chair asked the meeting to break into three groups to explore ideas around Health &Wellbeing, Going Digital, and the Role of Communities.
7. It was noted that whilst there wasn’t a specific group discussing volunteering, it should be noted that volunteering underpinned the third sector. Without volunteers the sector would not exist. It should also be recognised that volunteering is not free, volunteering plays a crucial role alongside the expertise and professionals within the sector. It was agreed that this topic required further debate and discussion in the future.
8. The Group split into three. A summary of the discussions can be found by emailing email@example.com
9. A questions and answer session then took place, summarised below:
Q: Is there transparency at looking at opportunities and future arrangements? A lot of people in attendance today are part of the Virgin contract: will the health and social care savings be required from the Virgin contract and then trickle down to the small organisations?
A: There is a series of efficiencies and planned savings within the life of the Virgin care contract. Part of the saving will be made through exploring new digital platforms. There are currently no concrete plans for exactly how these savings will be made.
Q: As the plans are not fully formulated,is there still an opportunity for us to work with you to develop them?
A: More detailed plans will be developed in January and we have an opportunity to look at specific areas. The relationship and discussion need to be on-going.
The local authority should take a view about the best way for communities to help with the demand. They should set out a vision and focus on the areas with greatest need.
Q: Not every organisation represented here today is part of the Virgin contract. The advice and information service had been part of the contract until recently was removed from the scope. Is it likely that it will be part of the contract in the future?
A: The majority of services have been now transferred. We have confidence in the model and we are in the process of TUPE-ing over some of our commissioning capacity to Virgin. We will be talking to all those affected in advance of any further changes that may take place.
Q: Practically,what can we offer you over the next three weeks? The third sector is good at identifying creative solutions but there isn’t a lot of time.
A: The budget pressures don’t go away. If we are making progress towards the savings then we could explore opportunities for these to take place in 2019. We have to start now and we would like to work with you. The local authority’s role is changing and we will, in the future, not be delivering all services ourselves. Councils can over-complicate things, so we need to have simple solutions to dealing with issues.
Q: The sector is good at delivering value for money. We recognise that the Council needs to save money and therefore we wouldn’t want the Council just to commission a service with a larger provider as it is cheaper. Everyone here today works at a micro level. “Grants” are not seen as helpful necessarily and the Council instead needs to see funding as “investment” into the local community. The sector is really hard working and delivers on the ground.
A: We need to look at doing things differently. To support this, we have identified a small grants programme this year. The take up has been slow but there have been some good ideas coming forward.
We need to recognise the hidden investment that the sector brings – eg the room offered by Bath Football Club for this meeting. Someone needs to absorb these costs as they are real and actual costs. There is an opportunity to explore ways to make things easier for us.
10. The Chair commented that there was an opportunity to continue this discussion with the 3SG group and the Council over the next few weeks. It was agreed to organise a further discussion.