Posted tagged ‘comprehensive spending review’

Schapp Attack

January 11, 2011

Is he really helping here?

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about Councils using stealth taxes and raising charges in order to pay for the salaries of their Chief Execs and other senior managers.  Normally I would ignore such things as the tripe that they are, but over the weekend and the beginning of this week some fairly big names have waded into the debate.

On Monday I heard Grant Shapps discussing this on BBC London, and listened to him trot out this and other lines such as how local authorities should need to do nothing more than a bit of restructuring to save the 4.5%.  He happily glossed over the fact that many Councils are facing a cut of much more than this, with some having to make 8.9% this year and then keep on cutting until they’ve saved over 25% over the next few years.

He then spouted the old faithful: “how many chief execs earn more than the Prime Minister”.  We’ve spoken about this ridiculous argument before, but it seems to be the default position when it comes to anything to do with money and local authorities.  This arbitrarily set wannabe high-water mark should be something that the Daily Express came up with and championed, but instead it appears to have gained traction with the impressionable masses.

The trouble with all of this talk is that it paints local government in a universally bad light.  Central government seems to be positioning itself to blame local government should anything go wrong, and in examining the pay of a handful of executives has a quick and easy tag line to stand behind.  They ignore the fact that even if these execs went down to a fraction of what they earned, this still wouldn’t even make a dent in the amount that has to be saved and would be nothing more than a political statement.

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Review of the year

December 22, 2010

The first rule of WLLG; don't tell anyone who writes WLLG

It is coming to the end of the year and the WeLoveLocalGovernment team are planning to take a well earned break between now and the New Year (don’t worry though; we’ve planned some little surprises to keep you entertained throughout the festive period).

And as the end of the year is coming it seemed appropriate to take stock of the year that has been, both for us and for local government. So, in true top of the pops style here follows, in no particular order, our top ten reflections on the year:

1) It would be hard to look past the Comprehensive Spending Review as the single most important moment for local government this year. In our opinion the spending cuts were, and still are, a big opportunity for local government. However, in the short term they have led to rushed decisions and the redundancy of a lot of staff who in any other circumstances local government would be nuts to let go.

2) As a blog site nothing was more exciting than our debut writing on the Guardian website; although our post on radical Chief Executives could be politely described as somewhat controversial. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed writing the blog and took a certain pleasure in provoking a little bit of controversy; derived straight from the front line.

3) All of us found ourselves facing redundancy, for some we were facing it for the first time in our lives. I don’t think any of us would describe ourselves as particularly naive and we knew what was coming. However, the way it happened, the effect it had on previously reasonable colleagues and the trouble many Local Authorities had at making the whole thing stick was beyond our worst expectations or fears.

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The Architect builds my anger up

November 17, 2010

Et tu, Architect?!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog piece which introduced you all to a semi-colleague who took credit for an excellent piece of work under false pretences.  Well, I am now able to bring you round two of the saga.

Before I go any further I want to say that this is not meant to be a blog about venting personal grievances.  I will not name them, no matter what the bribe is, and will try not to get too worked up about the whole thing.  I’ve chosen to write about it and share because I get the ever growing impression that this is becoming less and less an isolated incident in the public sector, which worries me.

As regular readers will know, there are many restructures happening in local government at the moment due to the Comprehensive Spending Review, one of which I am now part of.  The work I am responsible for and have been delivering with the help of an excellent team is moving over to another service area entirely, and I am the only one of my team who has been given the chance to follow it.

So, to keep it simple I am eligible to apply to do my job, as are six others from other parts of the council (it’s a big restructure).  All of these have rightful claims to the job and have dealt with the issue in an amicable (if slightly strained) way.

The last person up for it is our friend, The Architect (whose moniker I shall henceforth jargonise to TA).  As you may recall, TA has been on secondment to central government for some time, and wanted to stay there permanently.  We  were all recently sent the proposals for our restructure, and have been invited to make our comments. (more…)

Today is the Day

October 20, 2010

In happier times?

I woke up this morning feeling like I did many years ago on exam day; I assumed that the feelings were nervousness, apprehension and fearing the worst.

Working out these mixed emotions is tough.

In my heart of hearts I know that despite what George Osborne says today, many of the changes that are being planned for my local authority are already in train and won’t be revoked. I also know that even if the cuts he announces are huge it won’t necessarily mean I’ll lose my job or the services I help provide will be cut. Those are rightly decisions for local leaders.

Despite knowing these things I can’t help but feel that today is probably the most significant day for local government for possibly twenty years.

There will be massive changes in the coming years. Some changes have already begun but only in a small way; today will be the starting gun for what is to come; after all there is nothing like the cold hard reality of losing cash to focus the mind.

All of this leads me to question my analogy – I was right in one way; yes, it is like the morning of an exam.

But the feelings are not just nervousness and apprehension but actually excitement and anticipation. The world of local government is about to change and I for one want to make sure I’m part of making the best out of, whatever that change might be.

I, and my fellow bloggers, will doubtless consider the impact of the cuts later and the catastrophic effect they will have on the public services we provide and my job but for now the anticipation is flowing through my veins so all I can say is this:

George; bring it on!

20/10 Vision

October 19, 2010

Can we really look to the future when most of us are more short sighted?

I sat down at my keyboard today and very quickly became confused.  Nothing to do with the constant switch between Firefox or IE8 (which I use at home and everywhere else) and IE6 (which I am still forced to use at work despite it being nine years old); no, this confusion was down to the content of this post.

Part of me wanted to write about a couple of interesting little things which have happened around the office; the return of a significant colleague to the team after a secondment, the development of a very interesting programme here, a crazy conversation overheard in the toilets involving a gun (I kid you not).

Another part of me wanted to comment on the major, major changes that will be happening in just a few days, thanks to the Comprehensive Spending Review.  Or perhaps about the ‘bonfire of the quangos’, which to all intents and purposes is less of a bonfire and more of a spreading of the ashes.

Then I realised that this confusion is actually symptomatic of local government at the minute.  We are being encouraged to keep focussed on the little things and keep working hard, whilst being aware of (but ignoring to some extent) the fact that 20,000 quango staff and Osbourne only knows how many colleagues will potentially be out of work. (more…)

Doing things the ‘easy’ way

October 5, 2010

It's not easy being George...

A guest post from one of our private sector friends today… Enjoy

Cuts season is upon us and much like a high street hooker showing a bit of leg George Osborne is warming us up for the upcoming massacre of public services by flashing us a small hint of the good stuff that is to come.

Yesterday David Cameron talked welfare reform (handily delayed until 2013) but this morning George Osborne announced his first cut of October (many more to come).

For those who missed it George Osborne announced that Child Benefit would no longer be paid to households where one member of the household earned over £44,000.

As the BBC helpfully explained:

He (Mr Osborne) confirmed the cut would hit homes with a single or two high earners (as in over £44,000) but families with two parents on incomes up to £44,000 – which might add up together to over £80,000 – would keep the benefit.

So a couple earning up to £82K a year could receive child benefits, yet a single parent earning a little over £44K (and paying more tax than a couple) would not… When asked whether his policy was fair, Mr Osborne’s response was that it may not be fair, but it’s the easiest way to do it.

So, with the comprehensive spending review almost upon us – and the axe about to fall on many of our services and benefits, I got to thinking…..if Mr Osborne is using the ‘is it easy’ test when deciding which public services to cut what can we expect from the CSR?

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The axeman cometh

September 28, 2010

In a right old pickle?

Eric Pickles loves nothing better than to cut things. Be it road signs, Chief Executives, Audit Commissions or local government targets his instinct is to cut first and ask questions later. A reformer or incrementalist our Mr Pickles is not.

So it was not surprising to hear that his commitment to wielding the axe had yielded him a place on the Government’s Star Chamber.

For the uninitiated, a place on the star chamber is a sign of two things: 1) That the Minister in question is seen as capable of giving their colleagues a challenging time over the cuts that they are proposing (or not proposing). 2) That they have already come to an agreement with the treasury detailing how much they will trim from their budget and where it will come from.

The fact that Mr Pickles is amongst the first two Ministers to graduate from grilled to griller can only fill those of us in Local Government with dread.

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