Savings target hit with £210k to spare

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Council hit its savings target for the last year as the town hall continues to work its way through a tough programme of budget cuts.

Deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt had planned to cutback £12m and achieved a surplus of more than £200,000 which has been factored back in to next year’s target.

The top finance officer did however issue a stark warning about future cutbacks as the council has set itself a £15m target for this year.

Mr McKevitt said: “In terms of the council’s savings plan, we’re on target and delivered with that and in fact we’re £210k better off.

“But there’s still a long way to go, we’re about halfway through but it gets harder each year. Our budget is reducing and with each year we’re taking out more and more.

“We’ve reduced our long-term debt which saves us in terms of interest payments and we’ve re-financed some of our existing deals which have proved worthwhile.

“But we’re under the same pressures each year; adult social care costs, for example.”

In order to make significant savings, the council has either reformed or plans to shake-up its adult and child social care structures. And its Deal for the Future scheme has mapped out how the cash-strapped authority will make further savings of £60m.

Town hall coffers have been boosted by an improved dividend of £3.2m from its shares in Manchester Airport and a re-financing of the private financing initiative (PFI) deal on the Life Centre.

A finance report submitted to the ruling cabinet this month reads: “Last year the council had the opportunity to investigate the potential to refinance the arrangement with the current PFI portfolio holder.

“The refinancing deal has recently been finalised with an overall benefit to the council of £3.2m over the remaining life of the project.”

Mr McKevitt said: “In terms of how we’re going to deal with the ongoing pressures, that’s why the Deal for the Future is so important, trying to get the public voluntary sector to help us deliver services because to take that much money out you’ve got to accept that we can’t run everything.

“That’s what the Community Investment Fund has been about.”

In terms of jobs, Mr Kevitt said any job losses from the council could be mitigated by a number of the roles being transferred to other sectors.

He added: “We will have to shrink (in some areas) and some jobs may transfer elsewhere but hopefully we’ll shrink in the right way and staff will be able to go into different organisations that are working alongside the council.

“Sometimes the most economic model (with devolved services) involved bringing staff in under the town hall.”