Camden Council to drive £50m efficiency savings through online services

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell says residents will access council services differently in future,

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell says residents will access council services differently in future, with a major shift towards using technology to drive efficiency savings - Credit: Archant

Town hall bosses have pledged to drastically reduce paperwork and bureaucracy in the wake of more government cuts – which will see funding to Camden Council slashed by a further £50million.

The local authority’s finance boss, Cllr Theo Blackwell, said residents should expect to see a difference in how they access council services in future, with a major shift towards using more technology to drive through efficiency savings.

He also warned of more staff redundancies, increases in council tax and changes in social care and children’s services – which currently account for around 60 per cent of the council’s total expenditure.

The changes, which are due to be implemented in 2015/16, come after chancellor George Osborne announced a further 10 per cent reduction in council funding in his latest spending review.

Cllr Blackwell was speaking ahead of a cabinet meeting at Camden Council last night, where members discussed the local authority’s medium term financial strategy.

He said: “The next stage of efficiencies will focus on reducing the overheads at the town hall, which we think are costing too much.

“We think we can operate in a better way which will be cheaper – moving a lot of services online and using more technology to improve the efficiency of our services.

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“Our processes in the town hall have become quite cluttered. So if we look at how our services are delivered we can cut our bureaucratic practices.

“Paper means paper processes, it means more meetings rather than communicating online.

“People will see a difference in how they contact the council. We want to make things cleaner and easier for residents, but will also make sure no one gets left behind, for example in paying for services at the post office.”

No decisions about how much money will be cut from each department have yet been made.

But Cllr Blackwell warned that schools across the borough faced “real challenges” and that council tax was likely to increase in the future.

He said: “No council tax will go up until the 1st of April, 2015, at least, but after that there is a real question of can we keep freezing it?

“It’s likely all councils in London will face the same situation and council tax will rise.”

He said more redundancies at the council were also “inevitable”, adding to the 1,101 posts cut since 2010.

“Our biggest spend is in adult social care and children’s services, which accounts for 60 per cent of the total,” said Cllr Blackwell.

“It’s natural we look at the amount of money we spend in these areas, which will be under a lot of pressure.

“We will be looking at the amount of money we spend per person and seeing if we can deliver services in another way. We’ll also be looking at further use of the voluntary sector.”

He also said the council was committed to keeping libraries open, but that libraries would have to look at providing additional services.

In addition to government cuts, cash for schools will also be reduced following the roll-out of a national funding formula. Currently the council receives one of the highest levels of funding per pupil, but this is set to be standardised for all areas. “There will be real challenges to the schools community,” said Cllr Blackwell. “We are on hand to help them but how they make their savings will be a real worry. Schools will have to find new ways of working together.”

The council subsidises early years services with the Dedicated Schools Grant, but new restrictions on how this money can be used will mean a £7million shortfall in funding per year.