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Manchester CC legal department next to face major savings target

The legal services department at Manchester City Council has become the latest team to face a significant target for savings, after budget proposals published today called for £300,000 to be delivered between 2013 and 2015.

The local authority said these savings would be achieved “predominantly from income maximisation and changes to staffing”. Recovery of insurance costs is also expected to contribute to the target.

The savings are spread evenly over the two years, that is to say £150,000 will be delivered in 2013/14 and the same sum in £2014/15. The report indicates that two FTE posts will have to go.

On a positive note, the revenue proposals for savings for Manchester’s ‘corporate core’ are expected to create the capacity needed to invest in stronger commercial legal skills, alongside other areas and ICT.

The proposals said: “Legal and Democratic Services and Executive will continue to ensure lawful changes occur and that governance and accountability processes and procedures are robust and transparent.

“Support will be provided to the significant change programmes, particularly public service reform and regeneration.”

The report also said that support to the Combined Authority and delivering the council’s statutory democratic functions including elections would remain core functions. The democratic services team will meanwhile have to find £198,000 in savings over the two years.

Overall, the city council has a funding gap of £80m over the next two years, which represents a 15% reduction in its net spend. “Manchester has the biggest percentage reduction of any of England’s cities, the biggest in Greater Manchester, and one of the biggest in the country,” it said.

Around 830 full-time jobs are expected to go, on top of the 2,000 lost over the last two years.

Other elements of the proposals include a council tax increase of 3.7% in 2013/14. However, the authority said the amount of council tax that it has to support its own budget would actually decrease. It added that following the latest local government settlement, it could no longer absorb the rising costs of waste disposal and transport services.

Changes are meanwhile being proposed to libraries, leisure facilities, bin collections, parking and bus lane enforcement, and services for children and adults.

The budget documents can be viewed here

The Manchester budget cuts are just the latest in a series of reductions to legal teams’ budgets.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Bristol City Council’s legal team would have to find £230,000 in savings this year, on the back of £679,000 made in 2011/12 and 2012/13.

A total of £130,000 will be achieved through a comprehensive service review, providing “increased efficiency enabling increased income and decreased spend on external legal support”. A further £100,000 is likely to come through decreasing legal work on non-core elements and ceasing advice on non high risk cases.

Before Christmas the legal department at Newcastle City Council was asked to illustrate a 54% reduction to its base budget over three years.

A report warned that the team might have to cut its headcount by almost a quarter over the period.

Philip Hoult