Agenda item

Members Questions

Pre-submitted Members questions are pursuant to rule 12 of the Council & Committee Procedure Rules.


Questions should be submitted by noon on Thursday 1 February 2024 to  Democratic Services,   


(Note: Member Question Time will operate for a maximum of 30 minutes)


A Member asked the following question: For the 2023/24 budgetary year in order to create a balanced budget Worthing Borough Council committed to making savings of £3.203m . Can you please tell me how much of this saving has been actually achieved in real terms of savings to date and whether the Council is on track to achieve the full figure of £3.203m by the year end?



Response: The Cabinet Member explained that £2.2m savings had advanced in year with a further £1m revenue savings. The Council had faced reduced income from fees such things as bereavement services and planning and had added financial pressures from an increase in need for Housing, Housing Benefit and has been subject to added pressures from a Housing subsidy change. The introduction of focused governance and tight spending controls had realised savings in the current year, this governance was built into the budget for the next financial year.



A Member asked the following question: Could the Cabinet confirm if it is proposed within the draft budget for 2024/25 to cut 2 Park Ranger posts and, if so, could they explain why this is being proposed, has there been any form of consultation with greenspace groups, other stakeholders and the wider public, and what would be the amount of saving to the budget?


Response: The Committee was told that there was ongoing consultation with the Parks Team and UNISON regarding a redesign proposal. Concerns were respected, however it was emphasised that no decisions had been made as the consultation remained ongoing. Whilst this was the case it would not be appropriate to consult with greenspace groups or other stakeholders or in any public forum.  More generally the Council faced a difficult financial climate and some important choices about how services would be organised in the future. This meant that the authority was undertaking a significant piece of organisational redesign intended to deliver both savings and a more sustainable organisational model.



A Member asked the following question: Given the past performance of 2023/24 in that the Council is not on track to achieve its savings targets, what information has been presented to the S151 officer that gives them confidence that your budget plans for 2024/25 are robust, that the target for 2024/25 of £2,816m will be fully achieved and that this budget is able to be signed off as a balanced budget?





Response: There was a need to recognise the overall performance in year which amounted to £3m, £2m of which had come from the previous budget. Not all savings had come from the specified budget. Tighter spending controls had been introduced after the first quarter monitoring report. Members should be cognisant of unavoidable spending pressures. The meeting was told of the forthcoming organisational design and the importance of this work to realise savings that were needed. 



A Member asked the following questions: In the draft budget for 2024/25, could the Cabinet confirm the total amount of the proposed cut to the funding for Community Works (I can see £15,700 but understand it may be as much as £20k). Even though they have been offered access to funding to undertake additional work on top of their core service, this reduction to their budget may well lead to the loss of staff and since they do vital work supporting over 400 community groups, could you explain why this particular saving is being proposed?



Response: Members were told that the reduction in funding had been fully discussed with Community Works and is in keeping with the budget reductions the councils needed to make in order to balance the budget.  Community Works understood the position and are working with the councils to see how they can adapt the way they work whilst working with them to review their priorities over this coming year.



A Member asked the following question: Recognising that the council faced additional in-year pressures on its finances. Nonetheless aside from that the Council is firmly on track to fail to meet its 2023/24 budget savings target. Can you explain what has caused this breakdown in delivery and the weakening of the council's financial position.



Response: the Cabinet Member responded by saying that the council had delivered on £3m worth of savings including additional in year savings. There was also an ongoing review of Council Assets. It was important to recognise the in year financial pressures with a reduction in demand of the councils fee paying services and an increase in demand relating to Housing matters



A Member asked the following question: Your plans for organisational redesign includes 'making the best use of community capacity' . Given this is one of a number of key strands to the Council's work to save £2,816m this new financial year and a minimum of a further £1.1m plus each year for the 4 years to 2028/29; can you explain what you see as community capacity, what you expect it to deliver and how you will harness it?


Response: The Cabinet Member explained that an outcome of the big listen exercise had been the expressed desire of residents to have more engagement and involvement in the work of the Council. Response to the Covid lockdown had demonstrated the capacity and willingness to be involved with community response.


As residents would have different needs and motivations in how they want to get involved, the cabinet wanted to create and showcase opportunities that people can get involved in the:


Short term: Support residents to make a difference to their neighbourhoods (i.e. community clean ups).

Medium term: Bring together staff, residents and partners to improve outcomes on areas where the Council can’t act on its own (i.e. improving town centres)

Long term: Empower residents to influence future strategies of their services and communities (i.e. improving housing).


The activity would enable:

·       Residents get more involved in improving their streets and communities and feel more connected and resilient as a result.

·       Staff to better empower residents to make a difference to their communities and services better respond to their needs.

·       Partners better use their levers and resources to support community action so residents can see all sectors are doing their bit.

·       Civil society feels better valued to help communities thrive and work with the Council to develop solutions to issues.


·       It was proposed to plan work to support better community engagement through the development:

·       Digital tools that enable residents to have their say and volunteer, including a participation offer and calendar of opportunities.

·       Physical tools that enable residents to make a difference (i.e. clean ups).

·       Programme that trains people up to develop their skills and apply them on practical challenges.

·       Toolkits that enable staff to adapt the methods in their everyday work on how to better work with communities.

·       Portfolio of participation projects that are focussed on both Adur & Worthing priorities.