CHESHIRE East is embarking on a transformation programme to assess and change the way the council operates in a bid to save £100 million over the next four years and make it financially stable.

As part of its plans, the council says it will focus on supporting those who need help the most across the borough.

The cash-strapped council was recently granted exceptional financial support from the government to the tune of £17.6 million.

That money, if used, must be repaid over a 20-year period.

But one of the key requirements is the council has to produce an improvement and transformation plan within six months of acceptance of that financial support - which, for Cheshire East, is August 27 at the latest.

The council itself also requested a Local Government Association peer challenge, so it can learn from best practice from similar councils. That will be carried out next week.

Chris Allman, head of neighbourhood services, told yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of the corporate policy committee: “The transformation programme will facilitate deeper and broader services, this is based around the need to address the £100 million shortfall within the MTFS [budget] over the next four years.”

He added: “We would very much look at to invest in digital technologies to enable the council to fully leverage those.”

Mr Allman said it was also crucial ‘to develop an organisation workforce that’s flexible, to ensure they have the necessary skills and be able to work effectively in what will be a completely transformed authority and council’.

Because of a lack of staffing capacity – the council is carrying 14 senior staff vacancies – a partner will have to be brought on board to help with the work involved with the transformation programme.

The cost of the programme could be in the region of £450,000.

Cllr Liz Wardlaw (Odd Rode, Con) said what social services and other areas could do with that money.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Michael GormanCllr Michael Gorman (Image: Cheshire East Council)

But deputy council leader Michael Gorman (Wilmslow, Ind) said: “This is potentially a £450,000 investment and I would put the word investment in there and underline it several times.”

The report to the committee states any external partner will be required to identify savings that far exceed the money being paid out, and a return on investment of somewhere between 3:1 and 5:1 would be expected.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Gorman had referred to other councils which had undergone a similar process.

“Looking at other councils, Leicestershire have gone through this process and they saved £75m in two years with really enhanced services,” he said.

Crewe councillor Jill Rhodes (Lab) said staff must be wondering what is going to happen when the transformation programme comes into play, and the council must ensure it talked to unions.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Janet ClowesCllr Janet Clowes (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) said: “Transformation, MTFS’ are only as good as the efficiency with which we implement them.”

She said the most significant aspect for her was the reference in the report to re-prioritising to create an opportunity to invest in critical areas.

The committee was unanimous in backing the transformation approach for the council.