Brighton and Hove Council will become the latest authority to combine responsibility for vulnerable adults and children in a single post as part of a wholesale restructure designed to save £45m over the next three years.
The council will abolish its six existing directorates, including adult and children’s services, and create four strategic director posts One of these – the strategic director, people – will take responsibility for vulnerable adults and children in the city, putting Brighton among about 15 of the 152 English councils to combine the two areas.
However, the director will not manage a traditional directorate including all council adult and children’s services and staff under the plans, due to come into force in March 2011.
Strategic directors will instead set priorities for the city and manage a small body of commissioners; they in turn will establish performance agreements with 11 semi-autonomous delivery units to deliver on these priorities, similar to commissioning arrangements with external providers.
The units will include separate children and families and adult services sections.
Andrew Cozens, strategic adviser, children, adults and health services, said the council’s decision was one solution to financial demands all local authorities face.
He added: “This is a growing trend of councils deciding not to provide services but to commission them from third parties.”
The £15m-a-year savings target for the next three years represents 7.3% of its current £205m net budget.
However, the council also intends to improve flexibility by enabling individual strategic directors to draw on resources from across the council to meet their objectives, rather than just the budget of a single traditional directorate.
Council leader Mary Mears said the changes would “put the best available services from the council’s public, private and third sector partners alongside its own resources – cutting down on duplication and making us more efficient”.
The change means statutory responsibility for adult social care will not sit at the most senior level of the council – with the strategic director, people – but one rung down, with the lead commissioner for adult social care.
It’s not clear whether the strategic director, people, or the lead commissioner for children and families will be the statutory children’s services director. The situation in children’s services will also need to take account of the council’s joint commissioning arrangements with the city’s primary care trust.