Posted tagged ‘childrens services’

Moving money around

November 21, 2011

Fifty here, fifty there; sooner or later it'll be real money

As councils prepare their budget savings for the year ahead they are often forced to do some quite ridiculous things in order to meet their savings targets.

I was put onto this topic by the excellent Richard Taylor who writes an extremely detailed blog looking at the detail of decisions made by Cambridge Council and other public bodies. In this particular piece he was commenting on the local leisure contract being awarded by the council. This particular contract was delivering savings of £500,000; all of which were coming from the fact that the outsourced company had charitable status and could therefore claim an exemption on local business rates.

As Richard pointed out:

It is obvious to me that we need to elect MPs who will exempt local councils from paying rates on swimming pools and libraries. It’s bonkers that when such facilities are run by councils they have to pay rates, but if run by others they can be rate free.

This surely that can’t be right. The company aren’t doing anything different to that which the council could do; the only difference is that they get an exemption on a tax which eventually comes back to the council in its funding.

The change being made is not making a real benefit to the overall health of the nation’s finances. The £500,000 saving is simply a £500,000 reduction in money being spent by local government and received by local government.

And yet local councils up and down the land are considering making similar changes as it helps them protect their bottom line. Apparently, even the Government’s proposed reforms of NNDR do not address these issues.

I had a bit of a rant about this being ridiculous in the office and was met with a number of raised eyebrows. Apparently, this is all too common.


Moving the goalposts

January 24, 2011

A truly British obsession

Recently I made a few comments about the good people of our children’s services department; suggesting that they tend to have a disproportionate influence over the council’s budget.

As if to serve some sort of karmic retribution I recently found myself sent to a meeting of my august colleagues from that very department. However, what I encountered there was absolutely fascinating. The reason for this fascination was that my visit to see my hard working colleagues in children’s services coincided with Michael Gove’s latest policy in his education revolution.

Mr Gove has stated many times that he is committed to shaking us out of our educational complacency and his latest tool of choice was what he liked to call the English Baccalaureate, the results of which were published on the morning of my meeting.

The concept of the English Baccalaureate is fairly simple. As the BBC explained:

Schools in England are now being measured according to how many pupils achieve grades A*-C in five core subjects – maths, English, two science qualifications, a foreign language and either history or geography.

The reason this change exorcised my colleagues so much was that many of the schools in our neck of the woods were scoring fairly well in the old league tables which prioritised schools based on the number of students receiving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. Under the new system many of these schools which had been improving for years had suddenly found themselves hurtling towards the bottom of the league tables.


A child might die

January 12, 2011

Street cleaners don

(Apologies for bad formatting earlier; now updated and improved)

Councils can not be seen as single entities. In reality a council is a
conglomerate of disparate enterprises and activities; ranging from
the absolutely crucial to the 100% optional.

Because of this, and despite constant calls from the Government for councils to stop acting in silos, each council develops departments with their own aims and power bases.

These departments come in all shapes and sizes; including such varied beasts as: environment services, adult services, cultural services, community services, transactional services, the chief executives department, corporate services, resources and many more.

However, by the far the biggest and the most powerful in any local authority is the children’s services department. This department rarely participates in corporate initiatives, always manages to bat away budget cuts, often rejects even the most kindly put improvement suggestion and never ever compromises on any issue. If one is so bold as to question this behaviour the mighty department simply turns round and responds with a sigh:

Do as I say or a child might die.

(From the Guardian)