Posted tagged ‘pensions’

That was the local government week that was

April 20, 2012

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.

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That was the local government week that was

April 13, 2012

After a week off the blue keyboard returns

What will the world be like in 2020? We love a bit of futurology and this piece from Claudia Megele on the Guardian Local Government Network gazes into the crystal ball and tries to make sense of local government in 2020. Just as a flavour of what you would see when you clicked through:

In spite of the coalition government’s bold rush toward privatisation of public goods and services, the profit-driven model will prove insufficient to tackle the complexity of problems and services required. The needs of citizens and communities will require co-ordinated services that will lead to a stronger recognition of the role of local government – and the eventual need to rebuild its capacity.

However, this will require local government to rethink its revenue sources, a renegotiation of labour relations, and rebuilding citizens’ views of community and society.

Local authorities are always on the look out for more cash and the latest opportunity is a tax the Government are planning to levy against late night pubs and other establishments. As the Independent report:

Local authorities are entitled to a greater share of a new £18m levy designed to force pubs and clubs to pay for the social cost of late-night opening, council leaders claim.

The cost of running services such as taxi marshals and street wardens to help to make Britain’s booze-soaked city and town centres safer in the early hours will not be met if the share of the proposed “late-night levy” remains capped at 30 per cent, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).’

This is just another example of two public agencies (in this case police and local authorities) fighting over resources which they would both use to tackle the same problem, together. We’ll fight it out for a few weeks and whilst it will impact our bottom line the services we provide will remain unchanged, on both sides of the coin. Sad really isn’t it?

We’re fans of local democracy and always slightly disappointed at the state of the current local democratic process. Thus, we were heartened to see a couple of blog posts this week looking at how we could improve that process. If you also care about this then do take a peek at this post from Puffles’ best friend and this one from the ever insightful Toby Blume. Toby ends with a classic call to arms:

 I may not want to go to a political rally, a public meeting or a local hustings, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

Surely there are some social tech people who might usefully turn their attention to helping our political parties become more sociable in the interests of democracy and political engagement?

Let’s only hope there are people out there who are prepared to respond, and more importantly political parties who are willing to listen.

John Harris, one of the comment writers for the Guardian, is paid to have opinions and is therefore paid to be slightly polemical. The problem I often have with such a polemic is that it makes me angry even when you basically agree with it. And such was the case when I read Mr Harris’s piece about elected mayors. Entitled: Elected city mayors: the delusions and dangers of power freak politics’ Mr Harris argues:

What the great mayoral delusion really highlights is the modern establishment’s talent for messing with things for the sake of it, with no sense of history, experience, or even clarity about what exactly they want.

His argument is based in large on four parts of the country: Birmingham, where he doesn’t like the New Labour nature of possible candidates; Doncaster, where he doesn’t like the incompetent mayor; Liverpool, where he doesn’t want the current Leader of the Council to win and Manchester, which doesn’t have a Mayor, is successful and where the Leader agrees with him.

It would be fun to devote a whole blog post to dissecting Mr Harris’s bluster but shall we stick with this:

Low turn outs are prevalent in almost all of local government, incompetent politicians are not exactly unknown in local authorities, some mayors have been very successful, and you can’t dislike a system because you dislike the candidates or the diversity of candidates (Mr Harris had already set up these straw men before he lit his fire torch). Apart from that it was a well reasoned and thought through piece.

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That was the local government week that was

February 3, 2012

Did anything happen?

This week on the blog we have looked at officer neutrality, council websites, local government managers and the balance between working in local government and having a young family.

‘But what else has been happening in the on-line world of local government?’ I hear you ask; well, quite a lot. So without further ado:

It’s no secret that the cuts made by the Government are going to have a major impact on those councils in poorer areas but stories like this one from the Independant really do bring it home:

London and the North of England have been especially badly hit by the cuts, according to research by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

“Overall cuts in local government spending (excluding education) are largest in both absolute and proportionate terms in the high-spending regions of London, the North East and the North West,” said the IFS in its 2012 Green Budget – a precursor to the Chancellor’s Budget each spring.

Average cuts in London between 2009-10 and 2011-12 were equivalent to £221 per person or 11.2 per cent. Cuts in the North East were equivalent to £169 per person, or 12.6 per cent. In the North West, the average cut was £156 per person, or 12 per cent.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies was also in the news this week when they suggested that the Government’s reform of the pension system was not actually going to save the Government any money over the next 20 years. As the Telegraph explained it:

The institute concludes: “In general, lower earners in the public sector will actually get a more generous pension as a result of the recently announced reforms. That is, they will be able to retire at age 65 with a higher annual pension than they would receive under current arrangements. Conversely, higher earners are likely to lose out.”

There are two real lessons from this. Firstly, the lesson that every local government manager knows; before you get any sign off for a project make sure that your costing of the project is correct.

Secondly, it is amazing how much bad information has infected the debate. The Government were trying to convince everyone that this change was an absolute necessity when it wasn’t and the Unions were actively campaigning against a policy which eventually ended up benefiting the poorest workers and reducing the benefits of the highest paid. When you put it like that it almost seems the wrong way round!

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Today I strike

November 30, 2011

because...

Today I will be standing on a picket line.

But why?

Instead of giving you the Union line, or trying to make sense of what the media and politicians are saying, I thought I would give you the reasons of one simple local government officer as to why I’m striking.  This isn’t the view of the whole Local Government workforce, it isn’t even the views of all the WLLG crew, but it is why I’ll be outside my office and not in it.

So my reasons:

Pensions    

A while back a colleague put forward an argument that the difficulty with this strike from a Local Government point of view is that our scheme is noticeably different to the other public sectors schemes.  They are right.  Importantly our scheme is funded.  Though this isn’t a reason not to strike.

The pension negotiations have been going on between Government and the Unions for about a year.

Both sides seem to have recognised that the LGPS scheme should be dealt with differently.  However, like the other schemes we will be affected by these proposals.  Though I haven’t made my mind up about career salary average based pensions, it is clear we will have to pay more.  But really this isn’t the issue for me.  I’m of an age where 65 seems a long way away; I’ve kind of accepted that by the time I reach that age my pension will change due to politics, economics and population.

The issue instead for me is the stance the Government seems to be taking.

The constant message from them seems to be that the public sector is lazy, expensive and crippling the country.  The Government seemed to start these pension negotiations on the attack (changing, with little consultation, our pension increase linked to the CPI instead of the RPI).  Negotiations have been going on for a year and little has changed (alright there are two parties in any negotiations, but you see the point?).  This doesn’t feel like they want to change our pensions because of Lord Hutton’s report or the economy, it feels, to me at least, more like an attack on both our pensions and pay.

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I’m not striking but for once I sort of wish I was

November 29, 2011

 

Or not...

This blog is written by a group of people with different experiences and therefore different perspectives.

 

Tomorrow one of my colleagues will have a piece up explaining why he, and many others, will be striking. I imagine his perspective will be representing the vast majority of local authority workers and rightly so. With that in mind I thought it would be appropriate to put the view of someone who won’t be striking now save it interfere with the rightful coverage of a large amount of public sector workers who feel pretty badly treated.

 

Normally, not striking is fairly easy. In fact, the main reason I am no longer a member of a trade union is that a lot of the previous strikes have been for reasons I just don’t think justify a strike. Indeed, the last major strike over pensions, in defence of the “rule of 85” if I remember correctly, was exactly that type of strike; elitist and a little stupid.

 

However, this time it’s different. Rather than feeling opposed to the strikers I actually have quite a lot of sympathy with them.

 

In Local Government there are three issues that make up this strike and I’d like to cover each of them in turn:

 

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The real pensions divide; not private and public but haves and have nots

July 6, 2011

I just love that scary pig!

Sometimes, the work of another blogger provides the motivation for a blog post. Today the work of two of my colleagues, and a comment on one of those posts, has inspired me to write a post which might be way off base but I hope provides some food for thought.

Last week one of my colleagues, reflecting on the pensions strike argued that in reality the public and private sectors aren’t so different. This followed up a piece from the week before discussing the future of the local government pension scheme. In that post my fellow WLLGer had written that there was general agreement that local government should maintain a final salary scheme.

A commenter (code name Jeremiah) pointed out that actually many would prefer a career average type of scheme as it did more to even out the benefits between those on ‘normal’ salaries and the ‘high-flyers’.

When you add the two posts and the comment together it got me thinking:

Is the real divide in terms of pensions not between the public and private sector but between those who are reasonably ‘well-off’ and those that aren’t; or to put it another way the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

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Ouch!

October 8, 2010

Squeezed!

These are not good times for the local government worker. But yesterday was tough.

At 8am I stood by my wireless like a child awaiting the football scores on a Saturday afternoon: The reason? the release of Lord Hutton’s interim review of public sector pensions which for some reason was held until from public consumption until 8am (does Lord Hutton need an extra lie in now he’s no longer a Government minister?)

Needless to say the results were as anticipated!

And then at 11:30am my colleagues and I trekked off to the local education centre where the corporate directors gave us first sight of the new structure and detailed how the redundancy process will work.

I’ve said it once I’ll say it again:

Ouch!

We’ve discussed the whole redundancy thing before and will do so again over the coming months (incidentally on the topic of redundancy do check out this well written, heart-felt and slightly wry take on the redundancy situation from someone who has already been told he is being made redundant; it comes recommended) but today I think it is worth focusing a little on the issue of pensions.

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