That was the local government week that was


Some things to look at...

It was an interesting week for the WLLG crew as we collectively went through a little bit of a work related slump. We are keeping on keeping on and thankfully so is this week’s round up of local government related news and blogging.

Checking out the regular column of Richard Vize in the Guardian Local Government Network can be a joy. It can also be deeply sobering as last week’s piece was. Entitled: ‘Social care: the ticking timebomb at the heart of local government’ I think Richard got the issues pretty much spot on:

The government is getting into dangerous territory with social care, as funding, reform, rhetoric and reality combine to pull high-need, high-risk services dangerously out of shape.

The whole article is well worth a read as are some of the reports referenced within it.

Into the same debate came one of favourite bloggers, ermintrude2, who wrote this interesting piece entitled ‘Is there really ‘Crisis’ in Care?’. As she says:

I wonder about the use of the word ‘crisis’ though. There is a massive issue in relation to funding but this is not something that has been ‘magicked’ out of the air. Nor is it an issue which has suddenly arrived with this government. We have known about the needs of an ageing population for decades but each government of all parties have continued to try and ignore the fact that there will need to be a higher level of tax receipts or co-payment to meet the needs of people who require support from the state.

If it is a crisis, then it is a crisis created by lack of foresight both politically and economically – it is not a crisis created by the care sector or people who require care.

Her pieces are always worth reading and this one is no exception.

We’ve been fairly critical of national politicians who launch their local election campaigns with a bluster of non-local government related soundbites. Thus, we feel it’s necessary to give a few props to the Welsh Liberal Democrats who argued that:

“Welsh people know that if they want a better schools better services and better value for money the only way they are going to get that is by voting for a Welsh Liberal Democrat councillor.”

The squeeze on public spending meant “you really need to make sure that councils focus their resources on things that really make a difference”, she said.

“We have delivered better services, we have delivered better schools whilst at the same time making sure that we are not wasting tax payers money and we are keeping council tax rises low,” she said.

As if that wasn’t enough for our localist loving ways the Conservatives almost did the same with the following line from the Tory launch:

Mr Cameron told party activists at the campaign launch in Derbyshire that the Conservatives ran “the best-value councils in the country”

However, he then followed the quote by drifting back into national politics by saying that the Tories:

had been “leading the way” – as the largest party in the coalition – in helping freeze council tax bills for the second year in a row. He hailed measures which he said had helped councils save money, such as closer co-operation with neighbouring authorities on administrative functions and removing red tape.

He may have not quite focused on council issues but at least he was talking about things related to local government. In these times we are thankful for small mercies!

We’ve always been large fans of Participatory Budgeting on this blog and this piece from Councillor Maggie Chapman piqued our interest as she argues that 1% of the entire council budget should be allocated by residents in her native city of Edinburgh. I’m not sure if it is more surprising to find a councillor willing to propose something so radical or the fact that we consider devolving responsibility for just 1% of the budget to be a radical step… Anyway, her points are well made:

If, as politicians, we want to regain the trust and respect of the people we represent, and to get away from the paternalist ‘we-know-best’ attitude that pervades every level of government, we need to make the first move.  We need to take the risk and relinquish control of some real money. A City-wide PB activity would show people that we are willing to listen to them, that we trust them to make the right decisions for their communities and neighbourhoods.

Contrary to what Edinburgh’s Administration councillors think, that this is simply “window-dressing because Greens don’t want to have to make difficult decisions”, or just “another layer of bureaucracy”, participatory budgeting treats people as equals, and requires time for the proper deliberation and sharing of information that is always important, but perhaps even more so at times of financial hardship.  PB promotes knowledge of how the Council functions, and the services it provides, and it builds the case for the good work the council already does.  It makes the council more transparent and accessible.  But perhaps most importantly, it builds social capital, bringing individuals together in community endeavour and assuring them that their concerns and aspirations are valued and taken seriously.

Indeed!

Last week we mentioned that we didn’t know much about pensions but put a piece about a London wide pension scheme on the round-up anyway. We therefore thought it would be good to post this letter, also in the FT, which responds in a more expert way is worth posting:

Sir, Your report “London councils in pension shake-up” (April 10) offers an oversimplified perspective on an issue that has long engaged London local authorities. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the points that have exercised colleagues.

You do not need to combine local authority pension funds to facilitate the creation of an infrastructure fund; what is required is a sound business case predicated on the necessary investment skills, the sort of solution that the investment industry exists to provide. Many local authority funds are already exposed to this asset class, with their overriding consideration being an assessment of the risk associated against return and a diversification premium rather than a desire to implement government policy.

It continues in such a way and is worth a read for those of you who like pensions.

I sometimes stumble past the weekly blog club site simply because it is a such a brilliant idea. In order to encourage people to blog regularly the site gathers all the posts together and broadcasts them on twitter and on their blog. The weekly summary is here and this week includes:

The themes had a very sibilant sound in the 14 posts for Week 15 of Weekly Blog Club. Social media, sociable enterprise, social history, and what could be described as social projects were strong themes this week. Much of the social nature actually related to work contexts. We happen to be building up quite a collection of advice and case studies of using digital media, and especially of the social aspects.

Check out the different posts; all worth a read as will the pieces be going forward.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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