That was the local government week that was
This week the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been u-turning like a New York City cop receiving an urgent call in a Bruce Willis movie and Lord Leveson has continued to slowly but surely working his way through the tangled mess of media and political relationships in the UK. Meanwhile Eric Pickles, keen to try and grab a headline announced a change to the technical regulations governing council tax.
Thank goodness we work for local government!
So, what else has been going on?
Well, earlier this week we mentioned the council tax benefit reforms and the trouble they are causing, or are going to cause, local authorities. This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation adds some substance to our brief commentary. Within their summary they point out this salient fact:
The grant for each local authority will be based on 90 per cent of what would have been spent on CTB in that area. Unless councils find additional money from elsewhere, a requirement to protect pensioners in England will imply a 19 per cent cut in support for working-age claimants, on average. Those local authorities where pensioners account for an above-average share of CTB expenditure would need to make larger percentage cuts to support for working-age claimants: for one in ten English local authorities, it would be more than 25 per cent.
It should be said that they discuss the reforms in details and our selection shouldn’t be taken as representing the whole report. One other interesting comment they made related to the universal credit a point picked up by the Telegraph in this blog post. It concludes:
In the words of Mike Brewer of the IFS, the new council tax benefit system has the potential to “seriously undermine the point of universal credit.” The answer, he says, is for Whitehall to retain control of CTB. But that, of course, would jar with the pledge to devolve power down to councils….
Localism vs welfare; Eric Pickles vs Iain Duncan Smith: watch this space.
The whole post is well worth a read and highlights the contradictions inherent in some of the policy changes around housing and council tax benefits.
Meanwhile, our favourite Westminster politician Graham Allen MP has been spreading the good word of radical reform of the relationship between local and national government in an interview with the Ethos journal. Most interesting was Mr Allen’s take on local taxation which is much more radical than anything the coalition (or the previous Government) could muster and is well worth a read:
Allen would like to see central government removed from local authority financing. This would require a radical new settlement on taxation, under which HMRC sends half the national ‘tax take’ back to local authorities via an independent redistribution commission. With the majority of their expenditure secure, local councils would then be free to raise the remaining part of their income however they and their electorates decided, from a menu of revenue-raising powers ranging from property rates to sales taxes or local bond issues.
A week doesn’t pass without a reference in this blog to our friends at the Guardian Local Government Network and this week we were stopped in our tracks by a really interesting post on the impact of the localism agenda on women. To be honest it had never occurred to us but would recommend the post to everyone. As one of the contributors says:
Women are also more likely to work closer to where they live and therefore spend more time in their local community. This could mean women have more opportunities to engage in the localism agenda.
Yet because women spend more time in their local area they are more likely to be affected by poor quality local facilities and a poor local environment. This may mean that women feel more motivated than men to take active steps to secure improvements.
This is just a selection of the pieces and the whole thing is very well argued and very interesting.
Like the art of story telling there is a way to write a good case study worth reading and, as in so many things in life, the rule of three applies.
Here are my 3 steps to structuring a case study:
- Clearly state the issue, challenge or problem – allocate 40% of your writing to this. This section is important because, written up clearly, it allows other organisations to identify with your customer and then you’ve got them hooked for the solutions.
- Identify the solution or approach taken – allocate 20% to this. See why, below*
- Sing about the results – allocate 40% to this. If you don’t yet have any, talk about what results are anticipated. What is the impact – real or expected?
There will be many good posts coming out of the LGcomms event this week and many will be dealing with the content of the day rather than one particularly irritating presenter. As a starting point the good people of Comms2point0 have a series of pearls of wisdom from the conference. Check them out.
In addition, and more inspired by than commenting on, this post by Ben Proctor on the real purpose of communications is a really good one. As Ben argues:
I’m pretty sure that Richard Stokoe does care about the reputation of local government. He ran the LGA news team after all.
But he cares more about looking after people. When I interviewed him about how London Fire Brigade approaches social media he was very clear that it is all about stopping fires.
I agree with that approach, communications activity should be about changing people’s lives. It should be about making sure that the vulnerable know what services they can access, it should be about making sure that everybody makes use of the recycling service, it should be about transforming the way services are delivered….
PR in local government should be a tool by which citizens can drive improvements in the council. It should not be a tool by which citizens can be persuaded their services are better than they are.
Finally, In random news that we really shouldn’t care about but somehow makes it into the press we have this story which reports that, shock horror, Grant Shapps doesn’t follower his own department on twitter. Outraged, I say, outraged!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org