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Flintshire County Council chief executive says the hardest year is over

Flintshire County Council chief executive Colin Everett talks to ELEANOR BARLOW

Reducing management costs and collaborating with other authorities are among the key efficiencies which have saved Flintshire County Council from cutting services– according to the authority’s chief executive.

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, Colin Everett said this year’s budget had been the toughest the authority had ever had, but the worst was over.

He said: “There won’t be tougher years ahead. They will be hard and they will be challenging but there are positive factors.”

Mr Everett said longer term changes would be under way by next year and outline proposals for Welsh Assembly Government funding were slightly improved.

He added: “We are getting more and more ambitious and brave about making changes.

“We have got through the first of tough years and this was the hardest because it was the first big change.”

This year’s budget saw a cut of between £10.5m and £11m.

“This is a sizeable figure. We’ve made decisions which some people consider haven’t had a massive impact and it’s because of, and this isn’t just playing with words, efficiencies,” he said.

Mr Everett said one of the major savings would be through reducing managers costs– but he promised the council would try and avoid compulsory redundancies.

He said about the workforce of 9,000 would be reduced by about 100 posts over the next year, but many of those would be posts which were already vacant.

He said: “We really don’t want to force compulsory redundancies.

“I do expect there to be some because we’re not always going to be able to review an area where the circumstances of employees mean they’re able to make a choice on voluntary redundancy or early retirement.

“We’re not going to have an advertised programme of redundancies because we could potentially have lots of applications and lose an awful lot of real experience.”

He said over the next two years the council would be moving from a paper invoicing system to an entirely electronic process, which would cut out costs but also reduce the workforce.

He said: “The number of people who will be affected by that is hard to say but nobody could argue that it’s not a better way of doing it.”

Mr Everett said the council was working on a number of projects in areas including education and social services with neighbouring councils in Wrexham and Denbighshire to try and cut down costs.

Despite the efficiency savings, the authority did cut some services in this year’s budget.

Five libraries were proposed for closure but, after public outcry to the plans, the council decided to save one of those, while another has been taken on by a community council.

Mr Everett said he wasn’t surprised by the public reaction to the plans.

He said: “Flintshire’s quite a sensitive county to manage because it’s not a county with an urban centre.

“Even with libraries where the usage was quite low, people had an emotional attachment to them and we’ve got to respect that.”