Slough Borough Council’s finance department to undergo major restructuring
The struggling Slough Borough Council’s finance department is about to undergo a restructuring. The planned move was designed to create a “stronger and more durable base”.
The local authority has been heavily dependent on interim staff within the department. And the new plans aim to place staff in more permanent positions and roles.
Slough Borough Council was effectively declared bankrupt in July. The local authority then brought in chief financial officer Steven Mair and his ‘A-team’ of finance officers on an interim basis to resolve cash flow issues.
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Due to historic accounting errors, the council has over-borrowed and spent heavily where it needs to sell up to £600m of its assets and save £20m every year until 2029 to stay on track. flow. The Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting and external auditors Grant Thornton reviewed the council’s finance team and recommended that it invest more in the department and build its capacity.
The council has a high number of interim senior staff within the department, costing the council millions of pounds. Between October and December alone, the council spent nearly £2million on temporary financial officers. About 50% of the department’s staff are permanent SBC employees, which creates a “significant risk” if kept that way.
But council bosses now have a plan to invest in the department and add more permanent staff to reduce reliance on agency workers. It is proposed to augment the 61 member board finance team with six additional staff members. The restructuring also adds more senior positions to provide “exceptional leadership, direction and ability” as officers work to stabilize the board over the next three to four years.
Compared to similarly sized local authorities, the city would have more finance officers working for them. Along with this the council has the ‘ambition’ to have one of the ‘best finance functions in local government’ where staff ‘feel proud’ to work for the council. There is also the ambition to “develop” within the department.
The board also plans to add 23 additional permanent employees within its internal audit, commercial and anti-fraud department, bringing the new financial structure to 90 employees. The restructuring is expected to take place this fall and be completed in November, the report of which says the timeline is “challenging but achievable”. Once this reshuffle is complete, it will be reviewed after 2025/26.
The finance department currently costs over £7m, but in 2023/24 it could be reduced to £5.5m to accommodate the new structure. This reduction of £1.6 million used for new structure and transition costs will be funded by funds from the assets sold, as agreed by the Department for Levelling, Housing and Communities.
Senior advisers are due to discuss the restructuring program at a cabinet meeting on Monday June 20.
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