Posted tagged ‘round up’

That was the local government week that was

May 25, 2012

Back by something less than popular demand

‘Woohoo!’ I hear you say, can it really be that after a one week hiatus the WLLG round-up is back?

Well, yes, by popular demand (err, well not exactly but humour us) we’ve scoured the world of local government to bring you our favourite bits of the week. Well, that and the pieces we thought we could comment on.

We have been watching the changes to the relationship between the NHS and local government with a lot of interest and this week the LGIU published one of their excellent briefings accompanied by this post entitled ‘Health and Wellbeing Boards: system leaders or talking shops?’. The blog correctly identifies some issues that have yet to be resolved by this boards and particulr flagged the following:

An important issue which is not yet being addressed head-on is the relationship between the council and the HWB as a council committee. This is will be particularly important in relation to NHS provider reconfigurations which so often prove politically challenging. The Kings Fund describes the situation regarding contested reconfiguration as follows:

‘Even where there is a compelling case for change on the grounds of clinical safety or outcomes, the local authority will come under pressure to reflect local opinion and preserve valued services…In these circumstances the local health and wellbeing boards will be in the eye of the storm and the current wave of generalised goodwill on which they have been riding will quickly dissipate.’

The Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) 2020 tax report was largely ignored by the political classes, due in part to the fact that it advocated a huge tax cut for the wealthy and described people who opposed that point of view as suffering from sexual jealousy. However the report did make mention of local government and on that point we sort of find ourselves agreeing with them. As the Conservative Home blog points out:

Part of the mix they propose would see more tax at a local level, with councils less dependent on central government handouts. For localism to be a reality it must include the management of money. Otherwise councils are the paid agents of Whitehall. The report argues that half the net spending of a council should be paid for from locally raised tax – rather than 17% at present.

The politics of their plan would be greatly helped by the context of tax going down overall. But the power to impose a Sales Tax would come on top of retaining VAT. They would also allow a Local Income Tax.

Perhaps a bit too radical for some but a point definitely worth making and exploring further.

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That was the local government week that was

May 11, 2012

More content than the Queen’s Speech

It was the Queens Speech this week. The WLLG bloggers were a bit disappointed with the Government’s progress on any number of key issues with the localism agenda and social care reform agenda seemingly ground to a halt as the Government prioritise other issues. As much as we try it is very hard to get excited about the Government legislating to complete the abolition of the Audit Commission they announced two years ago.

There were some good bits within the speech and some relevant to Local Government and you can find them summarised on the LGIU blog:

It is good to hear that there will be a Bill to create new powers for the Children’s Commissioner and improve services for children in care, both things that the LGiU has been campaigning for. Similarly, we welcome mention of legislation on the future funding of adult social care although we are concerned that the plans are vague, and we would urge the government to confirm that legislation will follow the forthcoming White Paper.   Chances of a lasting settlement on social care funding seem greater to us if the momentum is maintained and if we are far enough away from the next election.  The lessons of 2010 are that once an election is on the horizon any political consensus will break down.

And whilst checking out the LGIU do check out Andy Sawford’s alternative Queen’s Speech which is very sensible and includes:

  • The Community Budgets Bill
  • The Localism and Statutory Duties Bill
  • The Social Care Funding Bill
  • The Children’s Services Bill
  • The Primary Justice Bill

Meanwhile, whilst we were disappointed by the Government’s programme we were equally disappointed by the LGA’s response where their key messages were:

  • The LGA will continue its parliamentary lobbying work to ensure the best outcome for our member councils.
  • Councils have already shown remarkable resilience in coping with the spending cuts and local government is already the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector.
  • Within our legislative lobbying work we will be campaigning to ensure there is sustainable funding for local government going forward.

Talk about burying the lead!

Meanwhile, in non-queens speech blogging we really liked this piece from Flip Chart Fairy Tales about the battle between the younger and older workforce. Apparently, some commentators are arguing that we need older workers to stand aside to make space for those younger staff who have no jobs. Instinctively, this sounds like nonsense but Rick dissects it with characteristic verve:

Calling on older workers to retire and make way for the young might sound like a good idea. It is no way to solve youth unemployment though. As ever, keeping as much of the population as possible economically active is what makes for a prosperous and stable society. If a greater proportion of people are over 65 it makes sense, therefore, for the over 65s to stay in work. Given that people in their sixties are healthier and fitter than in previous generations, that is now possible. The same factors that make people live longer also enable them to work for longer.

If we are to counteract the costs of ageing, more older people will have to carry on working. Far from taking the jobs of the young, the working elderly are more likely to keep spending and creating jobs for the young. Accusing older workers of  job-hogging fits in neatly with the fashionable generational warfare narrative but it is nonsense. If we are to deal with the consequences of an ageing population, that ageing population will have to keep working. And that will be better for all of us.

On the topic of the fate of the young this piece from the Guardian Local Government Network could not be more unhappy with Kate Davies arguing that we are now facing a housing crisis for young people that is perhaps not going to ever improve:

Call me naive, but I had always assumed that things could only get better; that progress was what happened over time. My parents’ life was a big improvement on their grandparents, and mine on theirs.

Scientific advances, greater freedom, less poverty and more opportunity would – I thought – ensure that each generation would do better than their predecessors. I had taken the onward march of mankind for granted.

But now the evidence shows that we are going backwards.

A bit too pessimistic for my liking but the housing crisis for young people is certainly real and not being addressed properly by any politician (see Queen’s speech above).

Who would have known that there was a website called public sector travel? Well, there is and they had an interesting article this week about the endless pain caused to local government by EU procurement rules:

The Local Government Association has called on Whitehall to roll back what it sees as needless complexity in procurement flowing from the European Union.

In a procurement pledge for the local government sector, the Conservative-controlled LGA said: “Public procurement is highly regulated particularly by the European Union and over the years the European procurement rules have become more and more complicated.

“We need help from government to put the power of procurement back into the hands of local government.”

We tend to agree that there is need for reform but are not holding our breath!

And finally my favourite tweet from a council twitter account for quite a long time is this classic from Surrey Matters:

Nut lovers, did you know nut shells make great compost? #6thingsyouneverknewyoucouldcompost

Is this genius… or madness?

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

That was the local government week that was

March 23, 2012

What a week; you’ll never believe what Pete in accounts said about Tracy in Transport and we got new pens in the civic centre and the cafeteria started serving hot sausage rolls… Oh yeah, and George Osbourne announced his budget and the health bill passed.

Speaking of the budget we were indebted to the Guardian Local Government Network for their local government budget tweeting on the day and this summary on the site from Sir Merrick Cockell is worth a read; especially in light of the opening paragraph which puts it all into context:

Today’s confirmation that public spending will continue to fall beyond 2015 has to come with a recognition that councils have already delivered extremely demanding cuts that others have failed to match. For the sake of hard-pressed local residents, it’s time for other parts of government to face the choices councils have been making for some time.

Local authorities are seeing their government grant cut by 28% over the current funding period. In comparison, Whitehall will trim budgets by just 8%. It is simply unsustainable to go on cutting council funding when the adult care system is dangerously overstretched and the country’s roads need a £10bn upgrade.

Sticking with the budget yesterday’s post failed to properly link through to the LGIU site so in the spirit of making up for past mistakes this piece on their blog makes an interesting point about the budget’s focus on cities, possibly at the expense of the rest of local government. As director Andy Sawford says:

The budget had a noticeable emphasis on the role of cities in driving economic growth, with announcements of a new ultrafast broadband deal for cities, new infrastructure focussed around cities, and emphasis on the 24 largely city based enterprise zones.  It is good to hear about the City Deal for Greater Manchester, which could open the door for many more localised deals with the Treasury that help councils to innovate.  Inevitably though the rest of local government will be left wondering when it will be invited to the party to agree local deals, develop further enterprise zones, and get support for ultrafast broadband.

It’s also worth checking out the other comments and briefings on the LGIU site. (more…)

That was the local government week that was

March 16, 2012

 

Someone missed the 'B' off from the graphic

As always with our weekly round up we are at least a week behind the rather excellent Richard Vize whose weekly column for the Guardian Local Government Network is a local government journalistic highlight for us. This (well, last) week he tackled the issue of integration and took a long hard look at the DCLG’s latest plan; one that unsurprisingly omitted much mention of local government. As Richard points out:

The near absence of councils from this strategy is as good an indicator as any of how the government is intent on marginalising local government in national life. While some councils have historically been responsible for failing to see how their communities were dividing before it was too late, many have shown courage, passion and ingenuity in bringing local people together, and putting integration at the heart of what they do.

His argument about the absence of housing from the strategy is also incredibly well made and should be taken on by the DCLG.

Sticking with the GLGN I absolutely loved this piece from Councillor Rex Osborne. He makes the case for more evidence based policy and the direction he takes is one that I really appreciate:

All I’m looking for is something as basic as, asking (and answering) the question: if we cut A, what will the affect be on area B and person C? This would be hugely beneficial to policy makers, councillors, and the public alike.

Such analysis could be both prospective and retrospective, assessing how cuts could be anticipated to affect certain groups or areas, and later examining what has actually happened, and how far (or not) this has diverged from expectations.

The whole piece is well worth a read.

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That was the local government week that was

March 9, 2012

But that's not proper qwerty!

This is a fascinating week for local authorities as all of us need to have our budget agreed by the end of the week. Many will already have done it weeks ago and some would have left it to the last minute. This has meant many long nights for senior officers and a lot more sightings of councillors than we might see for the rest of the year. The budget process is the culmination of a lot of work for a lot of people but much like the rest of life local government work doesn’t stop when the budget is signed off. Even more important will be delivering the services with the reduced budgets and doing so in a way we’d all be proud of.

So, local government will keep on keeping on and so will the WLLG local government round up:

Speaking of budgets, the Audit Commission has announced this week that they have awarded ten contracts for the provision of audit services to local authorities. As the Guardian reported:

Two of the ‘big four’ auditors, PwC and Deloitte, have missed out on contracts, while the other two, Ernst & Young and KPMG, will share half of the 10 regional contracts.

The big winner appears to be Grant Thornton, which has taken a maximum four contracts with a total estimated value of £41.3m.

As you can see these have largely been let out on five year contracts to major accounting firms. I’m not an expert but I can’t believe this is what Eric Pickles was hoping for when he pledged to localise the provision of audit and may have a significant impact on local authorities over the next five years.

Onto more interesting topics.

People have often said that local government is a job for life (ITV did so just last week!!!) but they would be wrong. Increasingly, local government staff are needing to think about their careers in different ways; a point recognised by the excellent Guardian Local Government Network who have started a regular careers e-mail and set up a local government specific jobs board.

Despite these positive steps good career advice is difficult to come by, in part because a lot of it is over a short period of time. I was therefore rather chuffed to have stumbled across this piece from Jonathan Flowers specifically about career planning. The whole piece is excellent but I was particularly taken with this bit of imagery:

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That was the local government week that was

March 2, 2012

While we blow off some steam, here's some great links from this week

Today is a day when a little routine may very well have stopped us saying something which might just have got us in trouble.  After a tip off from some of our tweeting friends (many thanks by the way!) some of the WLLG crew plonked ourselves in front of the telly and watched ITV present what they thought was a balanced assessment of whether it’s better to work for the private or public sector.  Suffice to say that, from our perspective at least, it was a less than neutral affair, and we are working out our response right now!

So in the meantime, here are some of our picks from the blogging week.  As ever, if you’ve seen something great which we’ve missed then tell us in the comments below or tweet us @welovelocalgov.

To start with, Dan Slee has once again mined a rich vein of thought and pointed out something which in hindsight sounds perfectly obvious (a much under-rated skill, we assure you) with a post about Facebook pages.  That’s right, pages rather than page; the premise that having one page to rule them all, one page to bind them may not actually do you much good.

Look at New York City. They have 5,000 people liking their City Council Facebook page and a similar number on Twitter. But they have 400,000 following @metmuseum as well as 1,300 liking an AIDS initiative.

Or look at the Scottish Island of Orkney. On Twitter 2,000 follow the council, 4,000 like their library, 400 the story telling festival and 80 sign-up for the jobs feed. So in other words, twice as many like things the council does rather than the council itself.

It’s that last sentence which rings most true to us, and one which councils would do well to wrap their heads around.

Over at the LGiU came the results of the 2012 Councillor Achievement awards.  To single any of the winners out would do a disservice to the rest, so instead we’ll just provide a link directly to the list and tell you to head on over and check it out.

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That was the local government week that was

February 24, 2012

Another week down; is it nearly pay day?

As is so often the case with our weekly round up; no sooner have we finished writing it than we read something that definitely deserves to be included and so it proved last week  with this piece from Richard Vize about councils and council tax benefit reform:

Of all the battles to be fought over local control, council tax benefit is one issue where the government has been delighted to live the localist dream. There were just two caveats when ministers announced that control of the benefit was being handed to councils; it had to be done quickly – by 2013 – and the bill had to be cut by 10%. The current bill is £4.8bn a year and some 5.8 million people in England on low incomes receive it.

Richard’s totally right. Not only is the Government expecting local government to take away a lot of people’s benefits; they are doing so at a time when the amount of people eligible is increasing, at a time of decreasing local government budgets and at a time when other changes to benefits are making local government’s job even harder. The DWP are taking housing benefits back in house meaning that local authorities are left without the economies of scale that processing two benefits gave them. It isn’t getting easier and as Richard says:

Bringing down the welfare bill is a laudable aim, but caught between the rhetoric and the implementation are people with little money.

Ok, so that was a bit depressing but before we move on to things with a slightly more positive bent it is worth taking a quick look at local government pay. As the BBC reported yesterday:

Council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year. The Local Government Association confirmed a pay freeze for 1.6 million local government employees for 2012/13.

Times are tough across the economy so it is unlikely we will receive much sympathy for this but as Public Finance magazine report:

A study carried out for the union (Unison) by the New Policy Institute shows that full-time wages have fallen by 13% in real terms over the past three years, as a result of a below-inflation pay rise in 2009/10 followed by a two-year pay freeze.

Added to this there have been lots of marginal changes to allowances, expenses and overtime which have also impacted on staff. This has probably allowed local government to protect jobs but especially for those on the lowest incomes it has come at a price.

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