04:28PM, Thursday 23 June 2022
Slough Borough Council has approved a restructure of its finance department to help address ‘significant weaknesses’ as the authority continues to grapple with its cash woes.
The council had to impose a ban on non-essential spending in July last year and is in the process of making huge savings to save its position.
To help address the situation, members of Slough Council’s cabinet this week agreed a restructuring of the finance team to include more permanent staff.
The existing department is operating with ‘significant numbers’ of interim staff at a senior level which the authority says is ‘expensive’.
Plans also include ‘significantly improving capacity and capability’ within the finance team, including the revenues and benefits service.
Due to the council’s precarious financial state, commissioners were drafted in by the Government to keep a watchful eye over the authority’s spending.
They are said to be ‘content’ with the proposed restructure.
In their report presented to cabinet on Monday, council officers said that external auditors and recent Government reports have highlighted the need to ‘significantly strengthen’ the finance and commercial services function and ‘develop a structure that is sustainable’.
Head of financial oversight at SBC, Rob Anderson, said that he hoped the move would help ‘dose the fires’ of its troubled financial history.
“This is the first comprehensive restructure so that the things that we know have gone wrong in the last couple of years aren’t repeated – and we get to a position where we are no longer firefighting but actually making sensible decisions,” he told cabinet.
“We have still got a long way to go to get the council on a stable financial footing and certainly in the short term we are going to need more resource to do that.
“In the future, once we get into a more steady state position, we might be able to reduce the numbers because hopefully there will be less fires to put out.”
Cllr Anderson added that there will be no compulsory redundancies due to the council relying heavily on agency and temporary staff.
The meeting also heard that SBC has had to shell out £4.1million this financial year to pay for these temporary colleagues. The council plans to complete its finance restructure later this year before reviewing it after the 2025/26 financial year.
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