Posted tagged ‘budget cuts’

Diving into the downward spiral

February 13, 2012

How cool does this look?

When I was a kid our local leisure centre had a cool water flume type ride. What was great about it was that after you had gone through the fun of the flume it opened out into a big bowl which you spun round and round before dropping out of the end. It was great!

Please bear with me as I torture a metaphor but being in local government is a bit like that water ride at the moment (and not in the sense that it is great).

The top half of the flume represents what local government has experienced so far. Much like the tube section of the flume was predictable, if difficult to control, the budget cuts so far have been understandable for local government. Yes, we’ve been shaken from side to side and yes it feels like we are being pushed downwards by a never ending torrent of budget cuts (told you this metaphor was going to be pushed) but at least we’ve been able to manage the cuts within the context of a direction of travel we all sort of understand.

To return to my flume the ride in the tube was always fairly similar but the big bowl at the end was absolutely unpredictable. Sometimes you flopped straight down into the hole and sometimes you went round and round before falling rather ungracefully into the hole after 30 seconds or so.

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Understanding the Local Government budget cuts

September 28, 2011

When £10 million isn't 10 million pounds...

A little while ago one of my colleagues wrote a piece detailing how the ‘feared’ cuts of April 2011 were in reality just the calm before the storm. They briefly explained how local authorities had dealt with the budget cuts in a very short period of time:

Well, some of them looked at what they could do in a few months and made some small cuts around the edges. Others looked at small financial adjustments they could make which could keep them going for a year. Some found ‘underspends’ to roll over whilst others just dived into their reserves to make ends meet from 2010/11 to 2011/12.

This is evidence, if ever it was needed, that the local government budget process is pretty complicated. This was further brought home to me last week when the estimable Simon Parker of the NLGN reported from the Lib Dem Conference that:

Turns out LibDems aren’t all that passionate about #localgov – but MPs in denial – one said cuts ‘not draconian.

Not draconian? Surely they missed the memo?

Well, either that or they simply don’t quite understand the local government budget.

The budget in my local authority is roughly (and all numbers here are rough as the budget process is way above my pay grade) £140 million and we’re being asked to find something like £50 million savings over the next four years. The assumption you might make is that the council’s budget in 2015 would be just £90 million.

Unfortunately, this is totally incorrect. Our budget in 2015 will probably end up being something like £130 million. You might then assume that this is a cut of just £10 million and something that our Lib Dem friends would easily describe as ‘not draconian’. Again, you’d be wrong.

So why the discrepancy?

Because life isn’t static and nor is the council budget.

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Promises promises, and of course some mindless retribution

June 6, 2011

In the past?

We tend, on this blog, not to write posts about social work despite it making up a sizable chunk of the budgets of the councils we work for. This is for a simple reason; none of us are social workers and the work they do is incredibly skilled and complicated.

This post is a rare exception but nothing in it should be taken as claiming any sort of social work expertise. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a blog with that sort of knowledge check out fighting monsters).

As many of you will be aware last week was a pretty big one for adult social care and the mainstream news with both the Southern Cross affair and the Panorama expose of Winterbourne View in the news.

Naturally, as this unpleasantness unfolded everyone looked to the Government; would they look to ‘bail out’ Southern Cross and what would they do about Winterbourne View?

I missed the Sunday morning TV shows but found a summary of the Government’s official response, courtesy of Paul Burstow MP, to Winterbourne View on the BBC website. The bits of the story that are direct quotes are as follows:

“It comes as a surprise to people that the statutory basis for the safeguarding of vulnerable adults in this country is much weaker than that which exists for children.

“I’m committed to follow through on some recommendations we have received recently from the Law Commission to implement statutory safeguarding rules that will require the police the NHS, social services to work together.”

and

Mr Burstow told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that he did believe the chief executive of the CQC, Cynthia Bower, should resign over the failures.

This made me a little grumpy and here’s why: (more…)

Schapp Attack

January 11, 2011

Is he really helping here?

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about Councils using stealth taxes and raising charges in order to pay for the salaries of their Chief Execs and other senior managers.  Normally I would ignore such things as the tripe that they are, but over the weekend and the beginning of this week some fairly big names have waded into the debate.

On Monday I heard Grant Shapps discussing this on BBC London, and listened to him trot out this and other lines such as how local authorities should need to do nothing more than a bit of restructuring to save the 4.5%.  He happily glossed over the fact that many Councils are facing a cut of much more than this, with some having to make 8.9% this year and then keep on cutting until they’ve saved over 25% over the next few years.

He then spouted the old faithful: “how many chief execs earn more than the Prime Minister”.  We’ve spoken about this ridiculous argument before, but it seems to be the default position when it comes to anything to do with money and local authorities.  This arbitrarily set wannabe high-water mark should be something that the Daily Express came up with and championed, but instead it appears to have gained traction with the impressionable masses.

The trouble with all of this talk is that it paints local government in a universally bad light.  Central government seems to be positioning itself to blame local government should anything go wrong, and in examining the pay of a handful of executives has a quick and easy tag line to stand behind.  They ignore the fact that even if these execs went down to a fraction of what they earned, this still wouldn’t even make a dent in the amount that has to be saved and would be nothing more than a political statement.

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Armchair Auditors

October 11, 2010

A cut down icon for a cut down era...

The Conservative Government are keen that Local Authorities start putting financial information from their budgets online. One London Borough has already obliged (well before the January 2011 deadline) and placed the details of over 2000 transactions over the value of £500 from the month of August onto their website.

As an endlessly curious sort I had a quick look and have copied across three rows of the accounts below.

40 11/08/2010 HAYS EXECUTIVE 426274.1 Agency Hays Contract A/c Payments X
41 26/08/2010 HAYS EXECUTIVE 411774.8 Agency Hays Contract A/c Payments X
42 03/08/2010 HAYS EXECUTIVE 402810.47 Agency Hays Contract A/c Payments X

The three rows I chose were all to do with Hays Executive which I am fairly sure is a recruitment company. What drew my eye was the fact that three times over the month the authority in question were spending over £400,000 with the recruitment company; presumably, given the consistency of the payment, for the services of temporary and bank staff.

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Oblivious but facing oblivion

September 23, 2010

What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?

In the 19th century news was often out of date: After all, whether in the printed or verbal form, it had to physically travel. And yet, my impression is that because of the paucity of information available, when the news did arrive it was widely consumed.

People were therefore informed if a little out of date.

Today things are very different. The news is available 24 hours per day and in more formats than you could possibly imagine; TV, radio, internet, blogs, comic books and of course newspapers and magazines.

Hell, you can even get your news from twitter should you want to.

Despite this torrent of news it seems that in many ways we are less informed than ever.

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