Posted tagged ‘LGIU’

LGAging behind

May 14, 2012

The Leader of all Local Government?

The WLLG team have been known to be fairly critical of our friends at the LGA. In a time of severe strain on the local government sector and when public understanding of local government seems to be reaching all time lows the response of the LGA has been, in our opinion, insipid.

As we noted on Friday the response to the Queen’s Speech was not a howl of outrage but a reminder that:

  • The LGA will continue its parliamentary lobbying work to ensure the best outcome for our member councils.
  • Councils have already shown remarkable resilience in coping with the spending cuts and local government is already the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector.
  • Within our legislative lobbying work we will be campaigning to ensure there is sustainable funding for local government going forward.

This is not to say that the LGA has been totally inactive. The letter organised by Sir Merrick Cockell pushing the Government to act now on Adult Social Care funding reform was a pleasant example of what the LGA should be doing. The fact that it was roundly ignored by the Government was a subtle reminder of the ineffectiveness of local government to influence the national agenda.

This is not the only example of failed leadership.

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That was the local government week that was

May 11, 2012

More content than the Queen’s Speech

It was the Queens Speech this week. The WLLG bloggers were a bit disappointed with the Government’s progress on any number of key issues with the localism agenda and social care reform agenda seemingly ground to a halt as the Government prioritise other issues. As much as we try it is very hard to get excited about the Government legislating to complete the abolition of the Audit Commission they announced two years ago.

There were some good bits within the speech and some relevant to Local Government and you can find them summarised on the LGIU blog:

It is good to hear that there will be a Bill to create new powers for the Children’s Commissioner and improve services for children in care, both things that the LGiU has been campaigning for. Similarly, we welcome mention of legislation on the future funding of adult social care although we are concerned that the plans are vague, and we would urge the government to confirm that legislation will follow the forthcoming White Paper.   Chances of a lasting settlement on social care funding seem greater to us if the momentum is maintained and if we are far enough away from the next election.  The lessons of 2010 are that once an election is on the horizon any political consensus will break down.

And whilst checking out the LGIU do check out Andy Sawford’s alternative Queen’s Speech which is very sensible and includes:

  • The Community Budgets Bill
  • The Localism and Statutory Duties Bill
  • The Social Care Funding Bill
  • The Children’s Services Bill
  • The Primary Justice Bill

Meanwhile, whilst we were disappointed by the Government’s programme we were equally disappointed by the LGA’s response where their key messages were:

  • The LGA will continue its parliamentary lobbying work to ensure the best outcome for our member councils.
  • Councils have already shown remarkable resilience in coping with the spending cuts and local government is already the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector.
  • Within our legislative lobbying work we will be campaigning to ensure there is sustainable funding for local government going forward.

Talk about burying the lead!

Meanwhile, in non-queens speech blogging we really liked this piece from Flip Chart Fairy Tales about the battle between the younger and older workforce. Apparently, some commentators are arguing that we need older workers to stand aside to make space for those younger staff who have no jobs. Instinctively, this sounds like nonsense but Rick dissects it with characteristic verve:

Calling on older workers to retire and make way for the young might sound like a good idea. It is no way to solve youth unemployment though. As ever, keeping as much of the population as possible economically active is what makes for a prosperous and stable society. If a greater proportion of people are over 65 it makes sense, therefore, for the over 65s to stay in work. Given that people in their sixties are healthier and fitter than in previous generations, that is now possible. The same factors that make people live longer also enable them to work for longer.

If we are to counteract the costs of ageing, more older people will have to carry on working. Far from taking the jobs of the young, the working elderly are more likely to keep spending and creating jobs for the young. Accusing older workers of  job-hogging fits in neatly with the fashionable generational warfare narrative but it is nonsense. If we are to deal with the consequences of an ageing population, that ageing population will have to keep working. And that will be better for all of us.

On the topic of the fate of the young this piece from the Guardian Local Government Network could not be more unhappy with Kate Davies arguing that we are now facing a housing crisis for young people that is perhaps not going to ever improve:

Call me naive, but I had always assumed that things could only get better; that progress was what happened over time. My parents’ life was a big improvement on their grandparents, and mine on theirs.

Scientific advances, greater freedom, less poverty and more opportunity would – I thought – ensure that each generation would do better than their predecessors. I had taken the onward march of mankind for granted.

But now the evidence shows that we are going backwards.

A bit too pessimistic for my liking but the housing crisis for young people is certainly real and not being addressed properly by any politician (see Queen’s speech above).

Who would have known that there was a website called public sector travel? Well, there is and they had an interesting article this week about the endless pain caused to local government by EU procurement rules:

The Local Government Association has called on Whitehall to roll back what it sees as needless complexity in procurement flowing from the European Union.

In a procurement pledge for the local government sector, the Conservative-controlled LGA said: “Public procurement is highly regulated particularly by the European Union and over the years the European procurement rules have become more and more complicated.

“We need help from government to put the power of procurement back into the hands of local government.”

We tend to agree that there is need for reform but are not holding our breath!

And finally my favourite tweet from a council twitter account for quite a long time is this classic from Surrey Matters:

Nut lovers, did you know nut shells make great compost? #6thingsyouneverknewyoucouldcompost

Is this genius… or madness?

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

A Royal Let-down?

May 10, 2012

Speak up for local government

It’s been quite a week for local government.  We’ve had elections, Mayors and scandal, and it was yesterday topped off with the Opening of Parliament and the traditional Queen’s Speech.  After the events of the last weeks, months and years I found myself waiting for this year’s offering with baited breath.  Just how far would localism be pushed now?  How would the Health and Social Care developments be developed over the coming session?  What exciting new areas would be on the horizon and find policy wonks up and down the country furiously debating until the early hours?

To be honest, I was left feeling just a tad deflated.

Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of good stuff in there.  The changes to the Audit Commission set-up which we have ourselves looked at before way back in 2010 are worth unpicking further at some stage and proposals around the Draft Care and Support Bill (amongst others) will be far reaching, but throughout the whole thing and whilst reading follow-up articles I was reminded of a line from a great piece by the LGiU’s Andy Sawford:

Time was that local government promoted legislation in Parliament. In the late 19th Century in particular major bills, such as on Public Health, were initiated by councils. When the Queen addresses Parliament this week, it would be good if those words “my government” meant local as well as central government.

In his piece Andy proposes an alternative Queen’s speech, and includes such gems as ‘The Localism and Statutory Duties Bill’ (aiming to cut through the 1000 or so statutory duties places upon local government, regardless of actual requirements for them) and the ‘Community Budgets Bill’ (aiming to build on the work undertaken previously with community budgets in their many forms and Total Place pilots).

These haven’t made it through to the version read out today by Her Maj, but the difference between these and those which were is that these are focussed solely on local government.

It feels very much like we’ve become the Cinderella of the piece; locked away in the dungeon and forced to do the dirty work as ordered by those upstairs, making sure everything runs as well as it can do, taking the blame when things go wrong and having responsibility for fixing them while others get to go to the ball regardless of whether their virtues (or lack thereof).  Trouble is, we don’t seem to have a fairy godmother on the horizon. (more…)

That was the Local Government week that was

May 4, 2012

It’s the morning after the election night before – let the counting commence

That was the local government week that was is meant to provide people with a nice round up of the week that has just gone. Unfortunately, most of the exciting stuff going on in local government happened overnight and whilst we like to be topical we’re not THAT topical.

However, whilst we do not have the election covered in any substantial way we know the people who do (and doubtless have spent much of the last night checking out their site). So before you read any more do get your morning election fix from the excellent LGiU site:

Although they are still working on the content you can check out all sorts of bits and pieces including:

  • information on when most counts are taking place and results expected to be declared - bit.ly/IjynMt
  • 70 Count Correspondents at the counts feeding us local insight and analysis -bit.ly/IjlnMj
  • collected and mapped data for all authorities holding elections - bit.ly/Irk2wK

Plus, check out their blog which will have been updated throughout the night and then whilst you are blog checking do check in with our friends at the Guardian Local Government Network whose liveblog in partnership with the (yes, you guessed it) LGIU has been a source of much local election happiness over the past 24 hours.

The LGiU share our passion for democracy and we’re really pleased they cover the local elections in the detail they deserve, including those that aren’t in London! Nonetheless, it’s always worth checking out their previous post on the 50 councils to watch to see how accurate they were.

The elections this time round are quite varied with mayoral elections, council elections and mayoral referenda. It is therefore interesting to see Harry Phibbs from the Conservative Home Local Government Blog admitting to doing a full about turn on his approach to Mayors:

In the 1998 referendum on setting up a Greater London Authority with a Mayor of London and London Assembly I voted No. This was despite the encouragement of the Conservative leader William Hague for Londoners to vote Yes. I thought that it would be another layer of bureaucracy. That despite the assurances of Tony Blair that it would prove a GLC Mark II – there would be inherent empire building.

Despite the eight years of Ken Livingstone, which in many ways confirmed my misgivings, I think that it is better to have accountability for services such as transport and policing rather than have them run by Quangos. Localism should mean that where possible powers should be devolved from City Hall to the London boroughs. But there is a need for a Mayor of London. So I think I was wrong to vote No.

Always good to see a politician admit to a mistake in the past and as he argues later in the post this is not a party political issue but an issue for each and every voter to make their own mind up about. We agree.

One other slightly worrying election related issue comes from London where apparently police are to guard voting booths:

Police officers are to be stationed at every polling station in Tower Hamlets after the Met launched an official investigation into allegations of electoral fraud. Officers will man all 70 polling locations in the borough on Thursday alongside borough enforcement officers to prevent voter intimidation.

The measures come as the Met launched an investigation into “unprecedented” evidence of voter fraud in the key London borough less than 48 hours before the mayoral polls open.

Police sources today admitted the measures were unusual.

Very unusual and really concerning for local government as the body responsible for making sure our elections operate as they are meant to. Definitely something worth watching on election night.

It is also worth remembering that whilst many news organisations will report the elections in a way similar to Reuters:

Conservatives face local polls backlash over recession

These are actually local elections and not a referendum on the Government. We’d all do well to remember that.

So, what about the rest of the goings on in local government land?

We liked this piece on the Equalities Act from the ever excellent Guardian Local Government Network which rather optimistically concluded:

The Equality Act, however, could offer the chance to place equality at the centre of local government work. “It’s not seen as an add-on any more. It’s work that people do, day in and day out,” says Mohammed Ilyas, policy officer at Harrow council. “I think we have definitely cracked it this time.”

I think the article summed it up pretty well and really hope local government will manage to make the most of the Equalities Act and not just see it as something they need to ‘comply’ with.

An interesting new site reached our notice this week. The Independent Local Government site, although we’re not quite sure where it has come from seems to be quite interesting. As they argue:

In England today local government is little more than an executive arm of central government implementing policy and budgets sent down from Westminster and Whitehall. Many would argue that this inhibits local growth and development. The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, chaired by Graham Allen MP, and the Local Government Association, are campaigning for independent local government. This Information Daily Focus Report covers all the issues and provides a valuable interactive resource, free to access, thanks to sponsorship from Boilerhouse Media Group

Again, not quite sure we agree with them in total but really glad these issues are getting a wider airing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the site and the wider campaign.

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

That was the local government week that was

March 23, 2012

What a week; you’ll never believe what Pete in accounts said about Tracy in Transport and we got new pens in the civic centre and the cafeteria started serving hot sausage rolls… Oh yeah, and George Osbourne announced his budget and the health bill passed.

Speaking of the budget we were indebted to the Guardian Local Government Network for their local government budget tweeting on the day and this summary on the site from Sir Merrick Cockell is worth a read; especially in light of the opening paragraph which puts it all into context:

Today’s confirmation that public spending will continue to fall beyond 2015 has to come with a recognition that councils have already delivered extremely demanding cuts that others have failed to match. For the sake of hard-pressed local residents, it’s time for other parts of government to face the choices councils have been making for some time.

Local authorities are seeing their government grant cut by 28% over the current funding period. In comparison, Whitehall will trim budgets by just 8%. It is simply unsustainable to go on cutting council funding when the adult care system is dangerously overstretched and the country’s roads need a £10bn upgrade.

Sticking with the budget yesterday’s post failed to properly link through to the LGIU site so in the spirit of making up for past mistakes this piece on their blog makes an interesting point about the budget’s focus on cities, possibly at the expense of the rest of local government. As director Andy Sawford says:

The budget had a noticeable emphasis on the role of cities in driving economic growth, with announcements of a new ultrafast broadband deal for cities, new infrastructure focussed around cities, and emphasis on the 24 largely city based enterprise zones.  It is good to hear about the City Deal for Greater Manchester, which could open the door for many more localised deals with the Treasury that help councils to innovate.  Inevitably though the rest of local government will be left wondering when it will be invited to the party to agree local deals, develop further enterprise zones, and get support for ultrafast broadband.

It’s also worth checking out the other comments and briefings on the LGIU site. (more…)

What is wrong with the Labour Party?

March 20, 2012

Mr Benn in his local government outfit (sort of)

This blog tries not to be party political as such. We’re perfectly happy to praise any politician when we agree with them and equally content with having a whinge when we disagree with them (or simply aren’t sure what they do!).

Thus, our blog tends to focus on things that are in the news or policies that are about to effect the sector. With this in mind the fact that we have not written a post about the Labour Party and local government since, well, ever probably tells its own story. Either we are all a bunch of raving Tories (unlikely), naively ignoring the good work of Labour on local government (possible) or Labour does really have a problem with their Local Government policy at the moment.

To illustrate this further I would like to play a little game with our readers; the same game I played with a Labour Party member friend of mine last week (she lost). Question 1: Can you name the Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government?

The answer is Hilary Benn MP; a former councillor in Ealing and now an MP for one of the Leeds constituencies.

Ok, so that was the easy question, and if I was Davina McCall I’d now be bragging about how clever people from West Dorset were and suggesting that ladies over 45 needed to buck their ideas up before breaking into question 2. Can you name the rest of the members of the shadow DCLG team?

I spend a lot of time (too much according to my wife) reading and writing about local government, and work in local government, and my sad confession is that I did not get a single one:

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That was the local government week that was

March 2, 2012

While we blow off some steam, here's some great links from this week

Today is a day when a little routine may very well have stopped us saying something which might just have got us in trouble.  After a tip off from some of our tweeting friends (many thanks by the way!) some of the WLLG crew plonked ourselves in front of the telly and watched ITV present what they thought was a balanced assessment of whether it’s better to work for the private or public sector.  Suffice to say that, from our perspective at least, it was a less than neutral affair, and we are working out our response right now!

So in the meantime, here are some of our picks from the blogging week.  As ever, if you’ve seen something great which we’ve missed then tell us in the comments below or tweet us @welovelocalgov.

To start with, Dan Slee has once again mined a rich vein of thought and pointed out something which in hindsight sounds perfectly obvious (a much under-rated skill, we assure you) with a post about Facebook pages.  That’s right, pages rather than page; the premise that having one page to rule them all, one page to bind them may not actually do you much good.

Look at New York City. They have 5,000 people liking their City Council Facebook page and a similar number on Twitter. But they have 400,000 following @metmuseum as well as 1,300 liking an AIDS initiative.

Or look at the Scottish Island of Orkney. On Twitter 2,000 follow the council, 4,000 like their library, 400 the story telling festival and 80 sign-up for the jobs feed. So in other words, twice as many like things the council does rather than the council itself.

It’s that last sentence which rings most true to us, and one which councils would do well to wrap their heads around.

Over at the LGiU came the results of the 2012 Councillor Achievement awards.  To single any of the winners out would do a disservice to the rest, so instead we’ll just provide a link directly to the list and tell you to head on over and check it out.

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