Posted tagged ‘defence’

In (partial) defence of the Tax Payers Alliance

June 6, 2012

Needing a good defence?

One of the things we love about this blog is the guest posts we receive from our readers. Some of them are from people keen to make a point, some from those wanting to discuss their work or workplace and some just want to start a debate. Today’s is firmly in that last category and we love it, even if we don’t necessarily agree with all of it. If you have a post you’d like to submit please send it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve enjoyed (and possibly responded to) this:

One of the aspects of WLLG that I enjoy as an avid reader is the ability it has to represent different views, reinforcing the notion that Local Government is not a homogenous entity but has different views.  My last guest post was in defence of Eric Pickles, and the title of this one might be a surprise as well.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance is set up to represent the views of taxpayers in the UK and is a very successful campaigning organisation, which is well connected and well funded and has some very talented people working for it and in its alumnus.  Its role is to hold public services to account for the public money that we spend and to point out waste and inefficiency: this makes it perfectly understandable as to why certain people don’t like it; much like many have disliked Private Eye’s Rotten Borough column.

There is a real and legitimate role for organisations like the Alliance to hold public services to account for what they do and how they spend their money. I personally don’t believe that public organisations are any different to private organisations when it comes to waste and inefficiency, but I understand that as we are spending public money we need to be held to a different standard and a higher level of scrutiny.  The Alliance does a good job of this but perhaps is insufficiently nuanced in how information is reported.   There is a clear need to publish information that we as public services should, but often when that information is published the context is missing. 

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In defence of Eric Pickles (no, really this time)

March 8, 2012

Our very own cover boy; two days in just one week

Two days ago a guest poster hinted at a defence of Eric Pickles but after flashing us a little piece of leg gave us an equally valid but slightly less Pickles-defending post about the way some critics of Mr Pickles choose to attack him for reasons not connected to his policies.

After a quick editorial meeting at WLLG towers we decided that one of us should write a proper defence of Mr Pickles. At first I thought it would be a challenge but to be honest there is much about Mr Pickles to admire.

Let’s start with the obvious:

If you accept the Conservative’s overarching philosophy which says that the country is bust and we need to do everything we can to cut public spending and thus the deficit then Mr Pickles has been a consistent presence. Whereas other cabinet ministers have caved into the pressures of their departments Mr Pickles has been steadfast in cutting the budgets of both the DCLG and the wider local government sector.

However, that is not to say that Mr Pickles has been a single minded budget cutter. Where there are issues which he feels are important to local voters the Secretary of State has been a consistent defender of his pre-election policies. Thus, we have seen two years of council tax freezes and money set aside for weekly bin collections. Like it or not Mr Pickles has identified issues which he thinks justified his party’s election and has delivered on them.

It hasn’t just been pet causes Mr Pickles has found money for. Yes, the budget cuts faced by local authorities have been tough but many of those in areas with tough budget cuts have talked about the dampening grant being a real life-saver. Not something the Secretary of State would crow about but it has made a real difference.

So what about those issues not related to the budget of local authorities?

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In Defence of Councillor Allowances

October 19, 2011

Simply after the plastic money?

I told my WLLG compadres that I was about to write this piece and they expressed a certain trepidation. In fact one wrote back:

Wow, you’re not going to make friends with that post! 

The exclamation point was a definite sign that I was planning to tread on some dodgy ground.

Because there is nothing that collectively raises the ire of officers, trade unions, the press and the local population to such an extent as the ‘councillor allowance’, or specifically the increase of the councillor allowance.

In particular, it seems that the decision by Cambridgeshire County Council to adopt a 25% increase in their council allowances has annoyed (I love a good understatement) many of the local folk.

The council allowance varies between many local authorities but in most cases provides a pre-specified amount of cash to compensate councillors for expenses incurred in the carrying out of their official duties. This is usually a lump sum that despite being paid for recompense bears no relationship to the specific tasks carried out and is thus not dependant on attendance, contributions, ability or even travelling time. (how that differs from a salary has always been a mystery to me). The allowances are taxable and taken together it is not hard to see why these allowances are seen as basically a councillor salary.

From the way some people speak you’d think that councillors were firmly on the gravy train.

And yet, if we are to consider the allowance to be the equivalent of a salary, and even if we don’t, this is simply not the case.

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