Slough Borough Council announces list of top priorities to address financial issues
Repair work at struggling Slough Borough Council will begin with the hiring of more permanent staff.
Plans to repair the reputation of the local authority’s children’s services have begun, with the council announcing a list of its top priorities.
They include reducing the number of agency employees and recruiting for permanent positions.
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Further details emerged this week on how the struggling authority intends to ease its gargantuan financial pressures.
Slough Children’s First Limited, the council-owned children’s services department, is to find around £4.7million in savings for the 2022/23 budget.
Some of the proposals to achieve this include saving nearly £1million on agency staff and cutting £340,000 in targeted early aid by cutting posts, advisers said.
As SCFL plans to cut jobs and implement restructuring, it hopes to recruit more permanent staff, as 35% of its workforce is currently made up of agency workers.
But the historically damning reports from the watchdog Ofsted on the children’s service and the council’s financial pressures have raised fears that this will deter potential candidates from working in Slough.
Speaking at the meeting on Monday, January 31, SCFL Acting Director of Operations Carol Douch said she is “moving in the right direction” in hiring more permanent staff and having plans in place. to try to reduce its cohort of agency employees to 20% of six. month.
Parts of the plan include revising the supply and rates of social workers offered by SCFL in order to be more competitive with other children’s services.
She said: “We have a very different approach to our recruitment which is not only about bringing people to Slough but also how we can retain them.
“When we know that the main thing for social workers, and this is our challenge, is to have good continuing professional training and we have been working on this for six months, so we have a good offer so that when people come to Slough, they want to stay because of the supply.
The interim director hopes to reduce the company’s 35% temporary workforce to 20% in six months, but she admitted that this is a “very ambitious” target given that it there is a national shortage of social workers.
Ms Douch added: “We know at the moment that the best way to get people to Slough is for people to know other people and say, ‘Slough is a good place to come’.”
SCFL acting chief executive Andrew Fraser said Ofsted noted that staff morale was positive. He hopes the next report from the watchdog will “end on a high”.
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“Slough Children First’s services are progressing but growing,” he concluded.
It has previously been reported that five children’s centers in Slough could be ‘repurposed’ into something else, such as family centers which could bring services into one location.
Council bosses stressed there were ‘no plans’ to close children’s centres, but Mr Fraser told the recent meeting there was ‘a lot of positive thinking’ going into turning them into family centers.
If this proposal goes ahead, it could save the council £456,000.
With significant cuts still needed, Johnny Kyriacou, associate director for education and inclusion, said they are “struggling” to meet legal obligations and are trying to rectify this with current resources.
Councilors have heard that finding more savings in children’s services in the 2022/23 budget is “unrealistic”. Further savings of £1.9million will have to be found in 2023/24.
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