Improvement plan for Dudley Council

A dedicated improvement board is up and running at Dudley Council to help the authority deliver a sound, sustainable budget amid growing financial pressures.

It follows a peer review earlier this year by the Local Government Association which saw a team of senior officers and elected members from other authorities scrutinise the council’s financial situation and internal workings.

The council requested the review which has since reinforced its own efforts to make improvements. 
The review team made several recommendations and in response, the council introduced the need for spending controls in October and an improvement and sustainability programme developed to help tackle significant financial pressures.

The findings backed issues already highlighted by the authority and agreed with the council’s own targets in delivering a sustainable budget for 2025/26. 

At the same time, in a draft report external auditors said the council’s finances needed attention, like other local authorities across the country. The auditors have indicated weaknesses in the authority’s finances, in a report due to go before the council’s cabinet in January next year.

The council has agreed a particular focus on adult social care and children’s services which have both seen a significant growth in demand. Council bosses have made a commitment to protecting vulnerable people by investing in these services.

It is against a backdrop of a forecasted £4.7million overspend in children’s services and a £7.7million overspend in adult social care with rising costs to deliver the services. 

The new independent Improvement and Assurance Board (IAB) is made up of members from the main political parties in Dudley along with senior officers and supported by the Local Government Association. 

It has met and begun “swift action” to implement the council’s “sensible and precautionary” measures which include immediate spending controls and helping set a budget, which will be agreed by the council in spring next year. Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said:

“The feedback from the LGA Peer Review and the auditors back what we are already working to tackle, and while it is comforting to know this is the right thing to do, it is going to be a real challenge.

“We do not want to be in the same position as other local authorities which have gone bankrupt, that is why this intervention work is essential.

”We have a robust improvement plan that will make us financially stable for the future. The improvement and assurance board is a key part of that because it brings the right people round the table with a common purpose – having a sound financial position to deliver services for the people of this borough. We have already taken swift action around that.

“National pressures on the costs of social care are significant and in Dudley we are committed to protecting and support our most vulnerable. We are in the process of setting a budget for the next three years which will meet these social care pressures and determine how we deliver all council services.

”In Dudley we have worked hard to get people out of hospital and into the right support but that costs money. As does our extensive work around supporting young children from the care system to educational needs, which again increases the pressure on finances.

”These are the services we must look to protect at all costs and ensure the people who need our help most in society have that support.

“There will inevitably be some extremely difficult decisions that will need to be taken but we have to get a firmer grip so we can implement these precautionary measures to safeguard our budgets.”

In October the council announced a range of precautionary measures amid growing pressures on spending. It includes introducing a recruitment freeze, stopping any new contracts, terminating agency and interim contracts and more.

A report on the peer review and improvement and assurance board will be considered by the council’s cabinet on December 13.

A report on the audit will be put before cabinet in January next year.


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