Ten ways to tell that your local authority is facing a severe budget crisis


Life's a beach in Local Government

These are tough times for Local Government and it is about to get harder as the cuts really start to bite. Today we present our guide for how to tell if your authority is taking it harder than most.

1)      Your Chief Executive Disappears

Suddenly, your effervescent and inspirational leader is locked in his office on the first floor only coming out for occasional photo shoots with the leader. His appearances in the canteen are rarer than the appearance of well cooked food.

2)      Your Chief Executive is everywhere

Stress treats everyone differently and suddenly your Chief Executive is at every meeting, reassuring, sharing your pain and generally getting everyone ready for what she describes as ‘a very tough stretch.’

3)      Trade Union Officials are never separated from their Job Evaluation manuals

Every restructure brings a fight over job grading and when there’s a fight over job grading theUnion are called in to try and write a new JD that fixes the problem. At the moment the Union guys are dealing with so many restructures they might as well be working in HR!

4)      The communications talk more about leaving than staying

Advertising on council notice boards and in the canteen is all about Employee Assistance Schemes, CV writing workshops and the offer of advice about how to plan your retirement.

5)      Home working is considered part of your ‘employee duty’ rather than a part of the work life balance

Suddenly reducing the number of desks in the local authority is a necessity and council managers will do everything they can to get their staff to work out of the office as often as possible. It’s not new but 70% occupancy targets are normal rather than revolutionary now.

6)      The contracts for your consultants get shorter and shorter

In a time of massive budget cuts the council can’t bring itself to move away from bringing in consultants (we need help from someone, anyone… Please!) to help them find the savings but the contracts for these guys are shorter and more demanding. 3 weeks seems to be the new norm.

7)      Service managers start muttering darkly about those ‘bloody increments

Even the smallest things that might affect a managers budget are greeted with deep concern and previously accepted parts of local government life (like an increment) are seen as hand grenades making setting that budget even more difficult that it has otherwise been.

8)      The head of procurement takes on an almost deity like position in the authority

All savings that can be made from goods and services (buying stuff) are savings that don’t need to be made elsewhere. Any help you can get to do that means one less job you might have to lose. Today is the age of the procurement head!

9)      You get a random ‘catch all’ recruitment freeze.

It’s not sensible in any way shape or form but stuff it, if we use a little recruitment drag and saves the jobs of a few people here then why not? Areas with high turnover of staff tend to disagree but no pain no gain…

10)  Providing a gold plated service is seen as a bad thing

Any service that provides a gold plated service is obviously spending too much right… What we need is cheap mediocrity at all times.

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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6 Comments on “Ten ways to tell that your local authority is facing a severe budget crisis”


  1. […] This post was Twitted by WeLoveLocalGov […]

  2. localgovalso Says:

    11) Everyone, including the Cabinet and Chief Exec suddenly find themselves deferring to the finance director who knows both where the skeletons are buried and where to free up a spare £50k for *that* overspend/shiny project.

  3. Ed Hammond Says:

    12) Cheery messages get posted on the intranet by Internal Comms reminding you of the new organisation-wide prohibition on purchasing PostIt notes.

    13) The two people working in Internal Comms are made redundant

  4. E9to5 Says:

    14) Camaderie and shared responsibility are encouraged through phrases such as “spend it like it’s your own”

  5. Nancy Trueheart Says:

    15) there are posters in the lifts advertising workshops to help start up your own business

  6. Ed Hammond Says:

    16) “As part of our commitment to tackling climate change, the civic centre’s electricity supply is being disconnected tomorrow. We have found some old manual typewriters in the basement that will be given out on a first come first served basis.”

    17) “A number of you may have noticed that external locks have appeared on the doors of the committee rooms and internal meeting rooms. This is part of an exciting initiative to rationalise the council’s assets, further to recent central Government policy. These meeting rooms are now being let out as executive studio apartments. £600 pcm. If you are interested in renting please contact Ian in Facilities Management”

    18) “Reminder to all staff – please pick up your bucket of tar from the council depot within the next two days. As part of our workstream optimisation efforts, all council staff will be responsible for filling in potholes on an ad hoc basis, instead of employing a dedicated team for this purpose. Keep an eye out on your way into, and out of, work, for any areas of road that may need touching up. PLEASE NOTE: tar is *not to be used* on any roads not maintained by this council”


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