Posted tagged ‘TPA’

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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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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The TPA strikes again

April 26, 2012

If you are reading this, odds are good that you are well aware of what has been happening over the past few years in local government.  Funding has been slashed, cuts have been implemented and services cut, leading to the recent announcement that £1.4 billion has now been cut from the local government paybill.  This has apparently been made in part by efficiencies, but mostly has been down to the sad spectre of redundancies.

210,000 people have so far lost their jobs over the past couple of years, and there is no end in sight to the challenges.  Services are being stretched to the limit, and council staff are hard pushed to ensure that the most vital are maintained as well as delivering what local people want and need their council to deliver.

So it was with a degree of shock but at the same time no surprise that I came across the latest rant by the TPA about the pay of senior officers.  If you are yet to go through it, it’s the sixth time they have gone through the accounts of local authorities and released the figures, drawing conclusions and starting arguments.  This is their right to do of course, but their tubthumping approach is less than helpful in the wider conversation.

This latest attempt by the TPA to grab some headlines has certainly succeeded, but it has also taken an incredibly weak route to do so.  By focussing on such a small number of staff out of the 2.1m still working in local government they are taking cheap pot shots which cover up the real issues and challenges facing the sector. (more…)