Thursday, 20 December 2012

At least fifty things in local govt Pickles is clueless about


Yesterday as a precursor to yet more cuts being made to local government funding, Eric Pickle's released his  "50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in local government" and its not too bad there are some good suggestions. A lot of it is straight from the para-Tory Taxpayer's Alliance, I'm not saying its all wrong. Things like cutting the top earners in local government, employing less consultants, great ideas and none of them are all together bad. But what is really striking is that of 50 suggestions nearly all of them are predominantly administrative 'sharing back off office functions', 'hot desking', 'less management training'. Which is all well and good but offers no advice on essential frontline services. Why the government who is after all in charge, has taken over 2 years to merely suggest these things is beyond me? I hate to tell Pickles etc their jobs, but there's a thing called parliament, if you introduce a bill, it passes it then becomes law and then with these laws you can enact change (just a thought Eric).

As much as I jest, there is a definite theme here the government has little real idea of the function of local government and what it takes to run it, which is why they have not passed legislation or come up with suggestions any sooner. Even Pickle's Fifty Shades of Matthew Sinclair suggests little thought has really gone in to the suggestions, millions slashed from budgets again and the help is 15 pages, 5188 words and although there may be fifty suggestions they are all hopelessly vague and not applicable to all authorities. Most notable in the piece is what is not said, nowhere does the document add up how much savings could be made by the proposals, not averaged or estimated, nothing, just vague rhetoric. The truth is all of these proposals would not save enough to ensure front line services in the face of drastic cuts to local government budgets.

There are many things not even mentioned in the document the key features and services of local government on the ground the ones that will be hit most (again) by Pickle's. For example how with falling budgets, rising costs and a rising population can authorities such as Cornwall Council:

Run a modern and efficient Fire and Rescue service increasing becoming specialised in dealing with road traffic accidents, boat and ship fires and dealing with flooding as well as the traditional fire fighting and fire prevention?

How can a modern school system be maintained, how can administrative costs make up for paying teachers, buying resources, building schools and maintaining them?

With more cars on the road year on year how can Cornwall Council's highways department maintain a safe and efficient road network for Cornwall without badly kept roads and more potholes everywhere?

How can we have decent Social Services providing care to the most vulnerable in society if the money to fund them is increasingly withheld by central government? How do we deal with an ageing population without the money to care for them?

How can Cornwall Council pay it's share of the police service funding?

These are merely five things, I have no doubt there is more than fifty not mentioned by Pickle's in his pseudo- advice for local government. I find this government overwhelming disappointing as time goes on, the mantra of cuts, and the myth they can be found through wastage and overspending alone, is a reality everyone but those in the corridors of power is waking up to. It is deplorable that the majority of work by Pickle's department is cuts, slashing budgets left, right and center and the only advice for dealing with them is under 6 thousand words. A document that does in no way identify clearly how these savings should be made, what stands to be lost and gained in terms of service and how much could be saved if they were all implemented. Frankly pathetic.

If you're interested the document is here 50 ways to save