Spending control update

You will know, I hope by now, that I prefer to be upfront and honest with the organisation – I’ve always found that it works best.  I wanted to use this blog entry to give you some feedback on the financial squeeze that we’ve been going through for the past month.

Most of you will be aware that we were in a formal arrangement with the NHS called the Better Care Fund.  In essence, we undertook to do certain things to keep people out of hospital and in good health, and they undertook to give us some money for last year, this year and the next. The bottom line is that the CCGs, the bit of the NHS that commissions all their work, don’t believe that they will have enough money to give us our money in this financial year.  We’re stilling fighting hard for the money, and we’re now waiting for the Department of Health to tell us how much we’ll get, if any.  That’s why we’re taking precautionary measures to ensure that we stay within our overall budget.

Understandably, this has spread a bit of concern in the organisation. I do not want you to over-react.  The sum that we’re seeking to save is about 5% of our overall non-schools budget, and we’re making good progress towards the target – I hope to be able to give you some feedback in early July on how we’re doing in more detail.  It isn’t easy in the present taut financial climate, but it will be much easier if we start now, rather than waiting for later in the financial year.

I want to make it clear that this is a tightening of our present arrangements, and not a completely new set of procedures.  We took the right decision of having a rolling MTFS before the start of the Financial Year, with the Business Plan as our guide for how we’re doing; all that we’re doing now is adjusting the targets.  In order to give us more focus on what’s being spent and where, the SLT will have a standing weekly serial where we will examine uncommitted spending and consider any proposals that come from within the organisation, both for savings and spending.  We will then adjust the Business Plan, with its activities, accountable leads and financial targets, accordingly.

I am absolutely committed to making this work well for the organisation. In my past military service, I’ve seen savings exercises done well and, more often, done badly. In-year savings are notoriously difficult to achieve, and require self-discipline, agility and confidence to avoid inflicting damage on the organisation. Leadership at all levels is needed, and will undoubtedly be tested.  I’m reminded of a quote from Field Marshal Bill Slim, a general who commanded the British Army in Burma, and whom I admire greatly.  He was a self-effacing and approachable man, who had the interests of his soldiers as his first priority. He said, “I’m a hell of general when I’m winning – we all are, but it’s when you’re not winning – and I’ve not always been winning – it is then that the real test of leadership is made”.

Let’s make this happen together.

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