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Council justifies spending £13.2m on HR and finances system at time when services face budget cuts

PUBLISHED: 12:17 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:17 20 May 2019

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

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Council leaders have justified their decision to spend more than £13m to replace its human resources and finance systems - at the same meeting they agreed a target to make £40m of savings and cuts at County Hall.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk County Council is facing a £71m gap over the next two years, amid rising demand and the ending of the government's revenue support grant - money the government gives to pay for services.

At today's meeting of the Conservative cabinet, members of the committee agreed to set a target of £40m of savings in 2020/21, including £9m from adult social care and £4.5m from children's services.

But the committee also agreed to spend an estimated £13.2m of capital cash to replace the authority's 14-year-old human resources and finance systems.

The system helps with the financial management of £1.4bn of income and spending, 460,000 payments to suppliers every year, 130,000 customers paying for services and the monthly payroll for 25,000 council employees and other organisations.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil PerryAndrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

But council officers say that system, which dates back to 2005, is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be replaced.

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Although the new system would cost about £13.2m, officers say that it is estimated that it could save £20m over 10 years, with up to £11m more saved in the years following that.

They say savings would be made by reducing support costs, with more automation and self-service.

The cabinet acknowledged that it was a considerable sum to be investing, but said it would bring rewards in the longer term.

Leader Andrew Proctor said: "It is a cost, but this is about a return on investment. That's the most important thing."

Deputy leader Graham Plant said: "This is over a 10-year-period, so will not help with short term savings, but in the long term, it is quite considerable savings, year on year."

And Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention, said the savings made the investment worthwhile.

He said: "It is a bold project, with a large capital figure. But if we are talking about delivering savings to that level, this is an absolute must that we should do, and we should have the vision to do it."

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