That was the local government week that was


But that's not proper qwerty!

This is a fascinating week for local authorities as all of us need to have our budget agreed by the end of the week. Many will already have done it weeks ago and some would have left it to the last minute. This has meant many long nights for senior officers and a lot more sightings of councillors than we might see for the rest of the year. The budget process is the culmination of a lot of work for a lot of people but much like the rest of life local government work doesn’t stop when the budget is signed off. Even more important will be delivering the services with the reduced budgets and doing so in a way we’d all be proud of.

So, local government will keep on keeping on and so will the WLLG local government round up:

Speaking of budgets, the Audit Commission has announced this week that they have awarded ten contracts for the provision of audit services to local authorities. As the Guardian reported:

Two of the ‘big four’ auditors, PwC and Deloitte, have missed out on contracts, while the other two, Ernst & Young and KPMG, will share half of the 10 regional contracts.

The big winner appears to be Grant Thornton, which has taken a maximum four contracts with a total estimated value of £41.3m.

As you can see these have largely been let out on five year contracts to major accounting firms. I’m not an expert but I can’t believe this is what Eric Pickles was hoping for when he pledged to localise the provision of audit and may have a significant impact on local authorities over the next five years.

Onto more interesting topics.

People have often said that local government is a job for life (ITV did so just last week!!!) but they would be wrong. Increasingly, local government staff are needing to think about their careers in different ways; a point recognised by the excellent Guardian Local Government Network who have started a regular careers e-mail and set up a local government specific jobs board.

Despite these positive steps good career advice is difficult to come by, in part because a lot of it is over a short period of time. I was therefore rather chuffed to have stumbled across this piece from Jonathan Flowers specifically about career planning. The whole piece is excellent but I was particularly taken with this bit of imagery:

1. Apply all your knowledge of demographic trends and economic projections around pensions to calculate the age that you think you will be when you can retire from work. Then subtract your current age. For me it’s about 30, for my audience it was about 40 and for a new grad it’s probably more like 50. That’s a long time.

2. Now visualise the circle I mentioned. It’s a pie chart of those years that you just calculated. How much of that time do you think you’ll spend in your current sector or with your current organisation? (All of it? Really?) How much time will you spend in the private sector, public sector, working for yourself? How much time will you spend juggling work and further study? How much time will you spend prioritising your career advancement, really focused on putting in the hours and building your base of achievements, and how much time will you spend giving a higher priority to family, or other objectives? The importance of this exercise is to get you thinking beyond merely the next job, and realising that you have many choices, especially if you can look beyond the immediate question of what to do next.

This is really good advice and the triangle is also worth checking out.

The Health Bill has certainly been fairly controversial but it didn’t take long for a few old stereotypes about local authorities to rear their ugly heads. This headline from the Telegraph caught our eye:

Councils given public health funds by Lansley will spend it on potholes instead, experts warn.

The article continued:

Under the reforms, responsibility for much of public health will pass to local authorities. But they are already planning on spending the funds on other things because they are facing budget cuts, it was warned. The Public Health for the NHS network, which is made up of former presidents of the Faculty of Public Health and more than 50 directors of public health, say commissioning should remain within the NHS.

Prof Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that although Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, had said that public health funding would be ring-fenced it was difficult to ensure in practice.

He said councils were already planning to use public health funds to fix roads on the basis that potholes are a hazard.

… “This is what will happen when the budgets are transferred, anything that is remotely connected to health is being used to take the money. There will be nothing left for core public health work.”

This is the sort of misinformed garbage that local authorities have been trying to disprove for years. Local authorities are perfectly able to handle managing a health budget and spending it on health issues (and not pot holes). The perception that councils only care about garbage and pot holes may be true in a few limited circumstances but the approach in this article is just a little insulting. What’s more, if we are able to consider health in a broader sense we might even come up with better outcomes than those simply focused on typical NHS interventions.

For those people who like a little intellectualism to go with their local government be sure to check out this characteristically thoughtful post from Matthew Taylor on the topic of localism. Among his many good points was this:

Finally, I will argue that localism is about history, culture and economics as well as governance arrangements. Yesterday Radio 4 broadcast an Analysis programme I made about the interest amongst politicians in the Labour Party – and also the other parties – about the recent success of Germany. Visiting Hamburg for the programme it was clear to me that one of the strengths of Germany – ironically the consequence of the post war structure imposed by Britain and other allies – is geographical. As well as strong regions (Lander) it feels like financial, political and cultural resources are much better distributed than in South East dominated England.

One of our favourite blogs turned five this week. Congratulations to Flip Chart Fairy Tales for five years of excellent posting. The blog is not always public sector related but the content is always fresh and interesting and well worth reading. If you haven’t done so already do check it out.

That’s it for this week. Hope you all have a great weekend.

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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