Archive for February 15, 2012

Political intrigue

February 15, 2012

Where the real intrigue happens...

I love reading political thrillers, especially the ones which involve someone fairly insignificant managing to change the course of the novel through their brave actions. You spend the book rooting for the underdog and the cause they represent and then at the end they usually succeed and everyone realises they were right all along.

Local Government is many things but no-one would ever claim that it is appropriate for a political novel. However, this week at my council we came about as close to political intrigue as I have ever experienced in local government.

At the moment all the council’s proposed budget cuts are being discussed by our political masters. As part of this process the managers of services which are facing potentially controversial budget cuts have been required to attend various committees and defend themselves. It’s a fairly simple process; the Directors of each directorate sits in for the whole meeting along with our chief financial officer and various department heads are called in to discuss the details of the services in turn.

This week it was the turn of a department which provides preventative services. As the service is not statutory they had been asked to find a rather substantial cut in their budget and were not happy about it.

The section of the meeting started fairly normally with the chair asking the manager to outline how the saving would be made and the impact that the cuts to the service would have. I believe the second question asked was around the steps that would be place to mitigate the impact of the cuts. So far so standard; after the councillors are getting used to facing horrible decisions and managers that are obviously not happy about putting forward savings that are going to damage services they care passionately about.

However, question three was a classic. I don’t have the exact words but it went something like this: