Posted tagged ‘george osborne’

You can’t put a price on geography

March 19, 2012

George Osborne and the North; a match made in...

At the time of the pre-budget report the Treasury hinted that they wanted to do away with local pay bargaining. Although the announcement was met with consternation in local government circles the fact that the treasury had said they were going to ‘investigate’ the issue rather than implement it meant that we all sort of treated it with a large shrug.

George Osborne is not a man to put up with shrugs and this weekend it was announced/leaked/trailed that he was planning to introduce regional pay across the public sector. Whilst I don’t think he has thought this through I guess that means that it might just be time to take the policy more seriously.

I have (at least) three concerns with the policy:

1)    The politics of envy

I live in London. I know why civil servants in the Treasury, who also do, might feel like this is a good policy.

I know that the salary I earn doesn’t go as far as it would if I lived in the same town as, say, my sister. I know that house prices are high, travel is expensive and commuting times are longer. I also know that friends of mine in London often earn more than me simply because of the career path they have chosen.

However, none of these things make the policy a good idea. I realise that the higher cost of living and the lower relative wages in my current home city are negatives but equally living in London is great in many other ways (not least the range of other job opportunities in the City) and I wouldn’t trade it in for living somewhere else with higher relative wages.

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Council Tax Conundrum

October 4, 2011

Do not pass go but we'll give you £72

After feeling rather hard done by over the past few weeks as first the Liberal Democrats and then the Labour Party more or less ignored Local Government at their party conferences the Conservatives have sought to redress the balance and then some in the first few days of their conference. What’s more, announcements about council tax, waste and the right to buy have come before Mr Pickles has even had his moment in the conference spotlight.

Despite being pleased about the rightful focus on local government, alongside the many other important issues discussed, over the past few days the local government announcements have left me feeling a little conflicted. The policy on weekly waste collection was ridiculous and the policy on right to buy and house building is a classic ‘devil is in the detail’ announcement. Which leaves council tax and on this I can’t help but feel a little let down.

First the positive news:

  • The Government is providing local councils with over £800 million. This money is new money.
  • Many councillors were feeling very twitchy about raising council tax this year and it is entirely possible that a 2.5% increase is more than many councils would have got had the decision been left to the councillors.

So far so good.

However, let’s not pretend that a 2.5% increase makes much of a difference to the council budget.

(Here comes the science bit)

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A Lament

November 15, 2010

 

A moon seemed strangely appropriate for a lament

 

When we started writing this blog there was a sense of genuine joy in our hearts. We wrote posts about council run walking schemes, the attempts of a council to ban their staff from using the stairs, inappropriate use of the ‘reply all’ button, internal fights over dress codes and what happens when someone spills a cup of coffee.

All of these posts were inspired by our sense of love for local government and our amusement at its eccentricities and foibles. And no matter what we said about our jobs and the places we worked, even when we were being serious, there was a sense of enjoyment and fun that permeated through the blog.

Unfortunately, this is no more. More and more the posts we write are serious (ish) discussions of job losses and pay freezes. Obviously, we still write other posts, but when if we do have a little poke at local government it almost feels like somehow we’re helping the Government ‘cut and cut some more’ agenda.

I make this observation because in many ways the blog reflects real life.  (more…)

When is an efficiency not an efficiency?

November 1, 2010

A bright idea in an efficient age...

I had an eventful day last week and for some reason it has taken me ten days to process it into actual thought. I was being trained as part of our council’s commitment to identifying waste and delivering efficiency within services.

The word ‘efficiency’ here is the important one. When most people us the word efficiency they usually mean doing the same thing with less inputs. This common understanding allows the Government to constantly claim large ‘efficiency’ savings without the public asking the question; ‘if services are £25 billion cheaper what are the Government not doing any more?’

George Osborne announced £4 billion worth of savings in central Government administration as part of the CSR. I’m sure most neutral observers thought ‘Hurrah, more money for the NHS’ or something similar.

The problem with all this ‘efficiency’ is that the sheer amount of it tends to devalue the term a little. No-one really believed that Gordon Brown’s pre-election efficiency commitment and to be honest I doubt that many people believed George Osborne with his £4 billion. (more…)

Today is the Day

October 20, 2010

In happier times?

I woke up this morning feeling like I did many years ago on exam day; I assumed that the feelings were nervousness, apprehension and fearing the worst.

Working out these mixed emotions is tough.

In my heart of hearts I know that despite what George Osborne says today, many of the changes that are being planned for my local authority are already in train and won’t be revoked. I also know that even if the cuts he announces are huge it won’t necessarily mean I’ll lose my job or the services I help provide will be cut. Those are rightly decisions for local leaders.

Despite knowing these things I can’t help but feel that today is probably the most significant day for local government for possibly twenty years.

There will be massive changes in the coming years. Some changes have already begun but only in a small way; today will be the starting gun for what is to come; after all there is nothing like the cold hard reality of losing cash to focus the mind.

All of this leads me to question my analogy – I was right in one way; yes, it is like the morning of an exam.

But the feelings are not just nervousness and apprehension but actually excitement and anticipation. The world of local government is about to change and I for one want to make sure I’m part of making the best out of, whatever that change might be.

I, and my fellow bloggers, will doubtless consider the impact of the cuts later and the catastrophic effect they will have on the public services we provide and my job but for now the anticipation is flowing through my veins so all I can say is this:

George; bring it on!