Posted tagged ‘Grant Shapps’

New Year, New Predictions

January 3, 2012

But will we even remember to turn the months over?

Happy New Year!

2011 was a pretty momentous year for those of us working in the public sector with cuts, strikes, riots, redundancies, rising demand for our services and a surrounding narrative that pitted those who work in the public services against those who use those services.

For those of us working in local government this led to panic, defensiveness, stress, pressure, innovation, decisiveness and a lot of hard work. And despite everything I really believe we enter 2012 in a stronger position than we entered 2011.

This time round we know what the cuts will be, most of us are well versed in the attitudes of the coalition government and the vast majority of councils have set themselves a realistic plan for meeting the budget pressures placed upon us.

So with that in mind, what do we think will be the five top story lines facing local government in 2012?

1)      The cuts

As I’ve mentioned before many authorities took the easy way out for their cuts in 2011/12. A few bits of low hanging fruit here, some small marginal redundancies there, a little bit of money from reserves and a few budgetary adjustments and most of us got through relatively unscathed. The plans for 2012/13 are severe in contrast. The low hanging fruit has gone and really tough decisions need to be made. Funnily enough, it’s not the decision making I’m worried about but the deliverability of these cuts. Making staff redundant is one thing but cuts to social care, education provision, housing or any other service that is demand led are very hard to accurately predict, especially as the budgetary pressures elsewhere in the economy come home to roost. The big question for local government is ‘are we able to deliver the budget cuts we promised in 2012.’ It’s a mighty big ask and a challenge for us all.

2)      Housing

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The much maligned ring fence

October 31, 2011

Not quite the sort of fence we were thinking of

This blog can be guilty of a form of post-writing schizophrenia. With different writers and daily requirements it is entirely possible to read posts that flat out contradict each other. Today is one of those days.

In the past this blog has been very positive about the removal of the so called local authority ring fence and the Government’s attempts to free up local authorities to act in the interest of their local communities; regardless of what the Government think. The flip side of this admirable argument is that when the Government removes the ring fences it is the services that were once ‘fenced’ that are most at risk.

This unfortunate truth was on display in force last week as both young people and those reliant on Supported Living services found that the removal of the ring fence.

In the case of the Supporting People grant the removal of the ring-fence was actually made in 2009 and we have two years or evidence to look at. The LGIU have prepared an interesting briefing and concluded that:

At the same time (as the ring fence was removed), councils across the country are faced with very difficult financial decisions as they cut an average of 28 per cent of their budgets. As a discretionary service, Supporting People is particularly vulnerable and it is clear that despite lamentations from central government, housing related support is declining at a local level in many councils.

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The Department for Criticising Local Government

February 25, 2011

Because Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles already have their pictures on our site

The Department for Criticising Local Government (for that is what the DCLG has become) have developed their operating model over the past eight months and I think we are now in a position to identify the different roles the Ministers play.

It goes something like this:

  • Eric Pickles makes the generalised attack on Local Government. This will be done in a forum where there can be no real come back (set piece TV or radio interview, newspaper etc) and in the context of another Government announcement. In effect the attack will be an aside used to partially justify the Government’s position; be it the need for cuts, localism, or local government pay caps etc.
  • Grant Shapps will be rolled out to argue with the Local Government representatives over the details of the criticism. He will usually choose two or three talking points and defend them all day from Radio 4 in the morning to Newsnight before bed. He’s very good and usually wipes the floor with his opponent.
  • Bob Neill will act as the voice of outraged Britain picking on a small example, usually taken out of context, that proves that local government is wasteful, crooked or otherwise disagreeable. His speciality is local papers and responses to newspaper stories. He particularly loves ‘non-jobs’, expensive buildings, high pay and bins but will turn his hand to anything the DCLG spin team choose to plant with their favourite papers.

Which got me thinking; what will be the story next week and who will deliver it? Here are some thoughts:

  • Local Government is closing too many swimming pools denying Britain a chance of winning gold at the 2012 Olympics (Eric Pickles)
  • XXX Borough council is closing its pool despite the presence of two senior managers in the leisure department earning over £60,000. It also refuses to share the management of the pool with neighbouring authorities (Grant Shapps).
  • The pool  was once used to host a ‘big fat gypsy wedding’ and the authority spent £5,000 making the environment appropriate as part of their diversity strategy. (Bob Neill)

Or:

  • Local Government is not delivering on its commitment to clean graffiti off public buildings at a sufficient rate (Eric Pickles)
  • Evidence from the Local Government Association themselves shows that the proportion of the council budget invested in graffiti cleaning has fallen in each of the past three years as councils have stopped focusing on what residents really want. (Grant Shapps)
  • XXX council has a policy of actively encouraging graffiti; protecting the rights of criminals above the rights of normal residents and refusing to even clean the area’s residents truly care about. (Bob Neill)

Any more suggestions for what the DCLG might come up with next week?

Sharing services – an introduction

February 2, 2011

Because without sharing neither of us would be able to cross the chasm

Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps are fond of responding to Local Government leaders complaining about Local Government cuts with three responses:

  1. Local Authorities should not complain when they pay their Chief Executive more than the amount paid to the Prime Minister
  2. Local Government would be fine if it simply abolished non-jobs (Grant Shapps claimed Manchester Council should not cut 2,000 jobs but instead get rid of their ‘twitter tsar’)
  3. Local Government could make substantial savings if it did a better job of sharing ‘back office services’

We’ve addressed the first issue before and the second issue is obvious baloney so does not bear discussion (well, maybe if you’re lucky we’ll give it a run in a few weeks).

The third issue, that of shared services, is of real interest to local government and to those of us who work within it.

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Dear John…

January 28, 2011

Dear Local Government...

Life isn’t easy.  Sometimes we could all do with a bit of advice to get us through the day, whether it’s deciding what colour tie to wear or what jobs to apply for.  Other times we just need to tell someone what we are thinking to get it off our chest.

So, with little further ado, here are some short ‘dear john’ style messages for you to enjoy.  Happy Friday!

  • Dear Grant Shapps,
  • On your measure I earn more than the Prime Minister
  • Sincerely, David Cameron
  • Dear Lambeth,
  • You paid for frivolous posters so I’m not paying my tax bill,
  • Sincerely, budget consultee
  • Dear resident,
  • At least make the effort to learn my name
  • Sincerely, councillor
  • Dear councillor,
  • The three years out of four when there aren’t elections still count on the calendar
  • Sincerely, resident
  • Dear legal services,
  • I didn’t want ten pages of waffle; Am I breaking the law: YES or NO?!?
  • Sincerely, front line worker
  • Dear Grant Shapps,
  • When you said councils were free to do anything we wanted, that was a lie wasn’t it
  • Sincerely, Ringo Starr’s old house

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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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On the fifth day of Christmas our bloggers gave to me

December 27, 2010

A picture of Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps actually cutting red tape:

Pure Genius!

A metaphor that has gone too far...


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