Like many finance directors across the world, I am feeling the pain of managing enormous financial uncertainty alongside remaining optimistic that we can sort it all out.
We feel the responsibility of the council’s financial sustainability acutely, but being confident about the plan to make it right is a must. Like all other councils, Cornwall has a significant budget gap from 2021/22 onwards and we already had plans in place to plug that gap. The impact of the pandemic in those future years is almost unquantifiable, but what we are sure about is that the gap will be bigger, not smaller. So the plans we already had in place need to have bigger numbers attached to them.
What is difficult is that our teams have planned their cost reductions and we are now asking them to find more and deliver them even faster. This is a hard message.
Conversations about how we deliver wholescale council-wide savings rather than micro services reductions is order of the day and asking people to think about taking macro costs out of their spending plans, rather than the odd few thousand here or there, is really difficult.
We are concentrating this next year on three areas: reducing the number of people we employ through a post reduction programme, re-scoping and reducing every contract, and developing deeper intervention plans for all demand-driven services. At the same time we will be stitching together new processes through automation and realigning resources to outcomes that really matter. This may lead to some services being reduced and stopped, but if we get it right, our staff will find new energy in new skills as part of multi-functional teams.
As leaders, we have to give hope that we will come out a stronger organisation, smaller in size perhaps, but packing a much bigger punch.
Tracie Langley is interim chief operating officer and s151 at Cornwall Council