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Cambridgeshire County Council gets unexpected £1m ‘bonus’

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An unexpected £1m bonus has dropped into the lap of Cambridgeshire County Council because of the pandemic.

And that can expect to get bigger, advised Tom Kelly, service director for finance and procurement.

In a report to the strategy and resources committee he revealed the extent of cash the council was saving on mileage costs because of remote working practices.

He said the county council would be able to “permanently apply a saving to mileage budgets across the council, reflecting new ways of working that emerged during the pandemic and that continue.

“The ability to join meetings remotely has greatly reduced the amount of travel that staff need to undertake. “

Mileage budgets, he said, have reduced across the council “reflecting permanently changed travelling patterns.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, a reduction in travel has meant that the council’s mileage budgets are significantly underspent”.

Mr Kelly said: “In 2021/22, over £1m of an approximately £3m budget for mileage was not spent / required.

“A lower budget for mileage of £2.8m was set across the council for 2022/23, giving a £378k saving as part of that year’s business planning.

“However, in the first quarter of 2022/23, there was still a £182k underspend on mileage.

“After allowing for the saving taken, that is a rate of underspend consistent with 2021/22, suggesting that currently there is no overall increase in the mileage being done.”

Mr Kelly said that to continue with the current lower levels of mileage would result in an underspend / potential saving of £728k in 2022/23.

“Any savings estimates will need to reflect that a temporary supplement was put in place for the 2022/23 financial year for CCC staff that are required to do a particularly high amount of mileage in their work such as front-line staff within social care,” he said.

“This was to reflect the rising fuel costs they will be facing.

Mr Moir also used Twitter to intervene when Jake Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen, told The Daily Telegraph that “there is little or no reason whatsoever that people working for Cambridgeshire County Council should not go back to work.

“As with the saving put into the 2022/23 business plan, we will apply an overall saving into the business plan for mileage in 2023/24 reflecting the likelihood of continuing underspend.”

He proposed that is this set at £500k.

“That is approximately two thirds of the anticipated underspend in 2022/23, which allows some room for increased mileage and for the temporary supplement that is paid to high mileage workers,” he said.

“Later in 2022/23, we will review which cost centres have underspends on mileage in order to allocate out this saving.

“No new activity is required as this saving should just reflect the new normal level of activity high mileage workers.”

Earlier this year Lord Sugar came under fire after he had attacked people working from home.

Council chief executive Stephen Moir has a formidable background in HR and at one stage in his career was Cambridgeshire County Council head of HR.

Mr Moir tweeted to Lord Sugar that “something other than old fashioned comes to mind.

“I’d also say that calling your workforce lazy gits is really going to motivate and engage them…”

Mr Moir also used Twitter to intervene when Jake Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen, told The Daily Telegraph that “there is little or no reason whatsoever that people working for Cambridgeshire County Council should not go back to work.

“We have seen Covid restrictions rolled back across the country and it beggars’ belief that the only place they haven’t heard about this is in Cambridgeshire.”

Mr Moir tweeted that “IMHO, work is what you do, let’s not confuse or conflate this with where you do it from.

“Workplace can describe a range of settings and locations, some fixed, some variable, some virtual, so let’s instead focus on outcomes…”

 

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