Council to spend up to £480,000 on consultants to help 'transform for financial sustainability'

Business consultants will be employed by Cheshire East Council at an estimated cost of up to £480,000 to advice them on how to 'transform for financial sustainability'.

Cheshire East Council has announced it is set to transform the whole organisation with a programme of work to become financially stable.

The council has set out the case for transforming the organisation and the way it delivers services to reduce the forecast funding gap of £100m over the next 4 years. This includes the procurement of a transformation partner – an organisation to bring additional transformation expertise and capacity to support the programme.

The estimated cost of up to £480,000 is for hiring a team of consultants, probably involving Microsoft and AI experts as well as change management specialists.

Councillor Mark Goldsmith explained "The reason we have to use consultants is because we need to:

  • Move very quickly to meet government deadlines and make savings asap.
  • We are already under staffed, so don't have spare capacity for this big task.
  • The project is for a limited time, so we need to hire people on a contract basis.
  • The council does not have the experience needed to implement such widespread changes involving new technologies."

Cheshire East has received a grant award from the Local Government Association (LGA) for £105,000 to support the transformation programme but further funding will be needed for this programme of activity. Phase 1 will require as much as £350,000 to be transferred from reserves.

Rob Polkinghorne, chief executive said: "Transformation will initially focus on financial recovery before moving on to service redesign in the longer term. We need to invest in capacity to change in order to deliver future savings and efficiencies – but any external partner will be required to identify savings that far exceed their costs.

"Work to prepare for and inform the transformation programme is already underway. The Local Government Association (LGA) is supporting with a corporate peer review and a review of organisational leadership capacity and structure. The council has also received grant funding of £105,000 from the LGA to support our transformation work, although we will need to use reserves to fully fund investment in the programme.*

"We will be looking to take full advantage of digital solutions, ensuring that support is accessible and that our workforce is flexible with the right skills to work effectively within a transformed council."

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of the council and chair of Cheshire East Council's corporate policy committee, said: "Inflation peaked at over 10 percent, but council tax only increased by 4.99 percent. In addition to the rising costs of services, the demands on social care for children and adults has increased. These factors affect councils across the country.

"Many councils are facing funding pressures. Due to its low level of reserves, Cheshire East Council needs to move at pace to address the funding-gap.

"The exceptional financial support, agreed in principle by government, does not provide any additional cash or funding. It enables the council to spread the cost of immediate pressures, up to £17.6m, freeing up reserves and reducing the imminent risk of a Section114 (S114) notice. However, this would come with additional costs in interest payments, so we would want to avoid using that facility if at all possible.

"Uncertainty about future government funding and the existing financial pressures continue to present a significant challenge. We must continue with our established in-year spending controls and ensure timely delivery of the changes set out in the MTFS. In addition, the council must transform to improve financial sustainability and to ensure we can continue to deliver our priorities, services and support for Cheshire East residents."



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Pete Taylor
Tuesday 26th March 2024 at 5:30 am
Another “organisational transformation”, we’ve had a few of those already; I suppose it is a new broom sweeping clean.
CEC appears to have been struggling since day one, CW&C similarly; will the remit of these outside consultants include looking at combining the two and giving it a catchy name like, for example, Cheshire County Council?
Nick Jones
Tuesday 26th March 2024 at 10:49 am
Can CEC afford this ??...
Richard Mason
Tuesday 26th March 2024 at 11:18 am
Therer do seem to be a few - hopefully this will get some proper results.
I agree that some sharing of services in Cheshire would be cost saving and more efficient - eg payroll, HR, IT... But the risk is that we end up moaning that money is all going to Chester instead of currently moaning that it all goes to Crewe!
Pete Wright
Tuesday 26th March 2024 at 5:10 pm
I'm not sure why a Section 114 notice would be such a bad idea since it stops councils taking on new projects they can't afford, the costs of which would eventually be passed onto council tax payers who're already struggling to pay for worse and worse services. To take on an extra half a million pound "investment" (I'll be kind), at this time seems foolhardy.
The Chief Exec says "the external partner will be required to identify savings that far exceed their costs", well, let's hope so, eh? And let's hope they can do it without reducing our services any more. But what if they can't?
Gina Thompson
Wednesday 27th March 2024 at 9:29 am
I am so fed up with being rinsed by local and central government. I thought the council leader was earning in excess of £150,000. In my opinion this is a high salary, what are they doing for it? Why can’t the people who are employed sort out the problems? I believe CEC lost £11,000000 due to HS2 being cancelled, get that back from government we have a government minister as our MP! When I look and see all the extra houses that have been built in Cheshire East all paying council tax it makes me wonder what the council are doing with our money.
Christopher Evans
Wednesday 27th March 2024 at 11:42 am
“Why should I believe Cllr Goldsmith when he cannot get his facts right regarding Item 5 at the meeting of the Economy & Growth committee on the 26th January 24, regarding the issue of Poynton Pool. His response to the petition raised by concerned residents was wrong. As a supporter of Residents of Wilmslow, the 26th Jan 24 was a disappointingly bad day. When you are Chair of a committee getting the facts right is important. On the matter at hand, sharing some services on an equal footing between CEC & CWC could be a move in the right direction”.
John Stewart
Wednesday 27th March 2024 at 4:20 pm
'Hiring a team of consultants'. Now there's a phrase that gives confidence to the electorate. Zero accountability. And, the council is looking at a funding gap of £100 million! Stable doors and closing...aren;t the existing professional staff able to manage their day to day funds, like any other business has to? Of course, it is easier to blame someone else.
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 27th March 2024 at 4:36 pm
Spend £480k but save money by closing the Poynton tip? Charge us for green bin collection? Definately feeling screwed.
Seems CEC is out of control.
John Featherstone
Thursday 28th March 2024 at 9:37 am
£480.000 better spent on repairing the roads they are an absolute disgrace
Simon Worthington
Friday 29th March 2024 at 1:01 am
Oh dear not again. What on earth is a “corporate peer review”?
If those on six figure salaries are not up to the job then GO.
The continual building of retirement apartments will inevitably lead to higher care costs in the near future. Build some affordable housing for young and job hungry ( a tall order I know)!
I have previously suggested that, as “social care for children and adults” is a national issue it should be nationally dealt with and all councils need to band together to force central government change. The Barnett formula cash would be a good start and let our Northern neighbour self fund!!!
The missing Matt been spotted yet???
Laurie Atterbury
Saturday 30th March 2024 at 6:37 am
My council tax increased by more than 4.99%; queried it and still awaiting a response.

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