Croydon’s drive to tackle its financial challenges took another step forward tonight (19 November) with the approval of an action plan that will put strong financial management and governance right at the heart of the organisation.
The plan, which was approved at an extraordinary council meeting, sets out how Croydon will address all the concerns raised in a recent auditor’s report in the public interest.
The council has fully accepted the seriousness of the report’s findings and apologised. In response it has pledged swift and decisive action to put things right, and has developed the plan to address the auditor’s recommendations.
The approval of the action plan is the latest step in Croydon’s ongoing drive to tackle the unprecedented financial challenges it is facing as it completely transforms the organisation.
It follows the council’s decision to issue a section 114 notice last week, which will stop all new spending and ensure vital services are protected for residents, while it makes the changes it needs to make.
Next week at cabinet, the council will also set out its immediate and long-term proposals to stabilise the budget and put the organisation on a sustainable footing for the future.
“This is a hugely important step for Croydon. The action plan goes right to the heart of how we are changing the way we do things and shows our absolute commitment to getting Croydon back on track. It represents a major cultural shift and underlines that strong financial management and transparency will be at the core of all we do.
“Our improvement journey is just beginning, and it will require the most difficult decisions to be taken, but we are ready to rise to that challenge, which will put the council on a sustainable financial footing for the future to deliver the excellent services residents need and expect. Tonight we have taken responsibility as a whole council for making this happen.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the council
Priority actions set out in the plan include:
• tackling the root causes of overspends in children’s social care through early action to support families and divert children from going in to care.
• managing demand for adult social care and rigorous monitoring to ensure best possible value for placements
• mandatory training for senior officers and councillors across the council in financial management and effective risk management
• ensuring council committees are fully equipped and have the opportunity to scrutinise and challenge the budget before approval
• developing a reserves strategy which includes a clear assessment of risks, and will go to council and cabinet with the annual budget
• ensuring the council uses transformation funding correctly to achieve results
• reviewing the council’s borrowing, to reduce the costs where possible
• a strategic independent review of the council’s companies, including Brick by Brick, and the council’s revolving investment fund is already under way and will report to cabinet in November.
The plan includes four extra recommendations, developed by the council as part of its improvement plans and dedicated to ensuring that the council is fully equipped to deliver strong financial and risk management in the future.
This includes setting up an independently-chaired Improvement Board to offer independent challenge and help to guide the range of improvement activities that the council has begun to undertake.