Posted tagged ‘reform’

National Non-Domestic Rates

August 1, 2011

Just in case you weren't following...

Credit to the Government; when they published their ‘Local Government Resource Review: Proposals for Business Rates Retention’ they also published a plain English version (you can tell one is needed from the title alone) of the report for those of us who choose not to be bored to death by the full technical majesty of it.

However, I think this might be where the credit stops.

The general principle of the review of business rates (otherwise known as a the National Non-Domestic Rate – see I told you the plain English guide was a good idea) is that each local authority should be free to profit from growth in their own local business rates.

At the moment business rates are passed straight to national Government and then passed back to Local Authorities in the form of grants. As the plain English paper helpfully points out:

This dependence on central government funding also means there is a greater incentive to design services in order to secure government funding, rather than to respond to local communities’ needs or align spending with citizens’ service preferences

The Government are therefore keen to ensure that local authorities are not pursuing the agenda of central government but are rather free to collect their own rates and spend them on things that will benefit their local community.

So far so uncontroversial.

The problem with the general theory is that this would be massively unfair if done unilaterally. I feel bad picking on London(well, I don’t really) but some local authorities in London would massively benefit from this and others (perhaps in areas with more houses and farms than huge tower blocks of offices) would suffer.

Therefore, the clever people in the DCLG came up with a plan. They would baseline the rates each authority receives and any increase in the rates received locally would be kept by the local authority.

This is meant to be seen as the Government passing power back to the local authorities but in reality it is simply removing the tyranny of the Performance Indicator and Dedicated Grant so beloved of Labour and replacing it with the tyranny of economic growth.

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Channel 4 show us the way

November 3, 2010

 

Channel 4: Seeing things that aren't there?

 

Last night I was contemplating enjoying the final of Masterchef when my remote control happened upon Channel 4 news. The trail from the newsroom told me that if we could just hang on until 7:35 (way past Masterchef time) the intrepid news team would reveal true scale of local authority spending.

For those who missed the revelations (you didn’t miss much) you can see the full story here.

I’m not one to paraphrase too much but the basic tenet of the report was that:

1) Staff in local authorities are sick a lot

2) Some councils have tried to address the problems they have with sickness by offering prizes, incentives etc to reward those staff that have 100% attendance rates.

3) Making staff redundant entails making redundancy payments which can cost a lot of money

And sad to say that was it.

I have numerous problems with Channel 4’s ‘exposé’ and I shall try to be as brief as I can so that this post doesn’t become too ranty. So, in order of the most ridiculous:

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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!

Ouch!

October 8, 2010

Squeezed!

These are not good times for the local government worker. But yesterday was tough.

At 8am I stood by my wireless like a child awaiting the football scores on a Saturday afternoon: The reason? the release of Lord Hutton’s interim review of public sector pensions which for some reason was held until from public consumption until 8am (does Lord Hutton need an extra lie in now he’s no longer a Government minister?)

Needless to say the results were as anticipated!

And then at 11:30am my colleagues and I trekked off to the local education centre where the corporate directors gave us first sight of the new structure and detailed how the redundancy process will work.

I’ve said it once I’ll say it again:

Ouch!

We’ve discussed the whole redundancy thing before and will do so again over the coming months (incidentally on the topic of redundancy do check out this well written, heart-felt and slightly wry take on the redundancy situation from someone who has already been told he is being made redundant; it comes recommended) but today I think it is worth focusing a little on the issue of pensions.

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