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Efficient council reduces savings target by millions

Prudent financial planning and bold reforms have helped Wigan Council to be ahead of their savings target, a new report reveals.

Wigan Council was one of the worst hit local authorities in the country for budget reductions after the announcement of austerity measures in 2010.

Through its Deal for the Future strategy the council has so far saved £115m through efficiency measures, reforming services and reducing demand.

A report to the council’s Cabinet to be discussed next week (August 24) highlights how the Deal for the Future has put the council in a strong position as it faces the next savings targets up to 2020.

It outlines how the council has achieved savings early through an accelerated plan saving on potential borrowing and inflationary costs.

As a result the savings target for the next three years up to 2020 has reduced from an original £45m to £38.6m.

Lord Peter Smith, the leader of Wigan Council, said: “By setting out our strategy through The Deal and now the Deal for the Future we have been able to achieve our savings targets while improving the services we deliver to residents.

“The Deal for the Future radically changes the way we deliver services compared to the past and will help us maintain a secure financial position in the future.

“We were initially criticised for this approach but we are now seeing clear benefits. “We are ahead of schedule with our savings plan and the council is in a strong position going into 2018/19.

“However this does not mean that we do not have any challenges ahead of us.

“There are significant risks of financial pressure particularly from the areas of adult social care and children’s services.

“There is also a lack of clarity in how local government will be funded in the future with the Government failing to provide reassurance to councils on this matter.”

The report highlights some of the achievements so far in the Deal for the Future especially in economic growth with the borough’s employment rate increasing to 75.3 per cent, the highest in the region, and the local economy increased by 4 per cent.

Reform in children’s services helped the council achieve a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted and deliver a new model for early years through its Start Well centres.

Satisfaction with the council from residents increased to 65 per cent and the number of residents that feel the council provides value for money increased to 50 per cent.

The council has also kept Council Tax low – with it being the second lowest out of the ten Greater Manchester councils.

For the next three years the savings targets are: 2017/18 £16m, 2018/19 £12m and 2019/20 £10.6m.

Pressures on the budget for the next three years include the introduction of the National Living Wage in the care sector potentially costing the council up to £3.4m and on-going residential costs for looked after children.

Areas to improve to meet other targets in the strategy include the number of homes being built in a year, the number of residents qualified to NVQ level 3 and increasing overall life expectancy.

Lord Smith added: “We could not have achieved what we have done without the tremendous support of our fantastic staff who deliver services to local people.

“We will remain committed to following the principles of The Deal for the Future and delivering efficient high quality reformed services to our residents.”

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