Last month, my department published a list of fifty ways to save – a list of examples of sensible savings in local government. The aim of this exercise is two fold. First, to encourage local authorities to better use residents’ hard earned money. Second, to give residents a checklist of what their council could be doing to economise. It is well within the rights of anyone, especially when faced with a rise in council tax, to write to their local authority and demand an explanation if steps have not been taken to reduce spending.
Councils do, however, often suffer from more negative coverage in the media and the public consciousness than perhaps they should. There are a large number of councils (the majority of which are Conservative) who are taking big steps to keep council tax down and use your money properly.
As I travel around the country meeting councillors I am seeing some great examples of what is being achieved. Yet in other places we can go much further and we should. Over the next few weeks I want to tell you about some of innovation that is happening.
This week I would like to draw your attention to Forest of Dean District Council. Run by a minority Conservative administration (just 19 out of 48 seats), they plan to freeze council tax across the whole of their four year term. They are in this enviable position as they have taken a number of cost saving decisions, many earlier than most councils across the UK.
- share finance, procurement, HR and payroll services;
- share internal audit;
- are in a revenues and benefits partnership;
- publish all of their spending, not just costs over £500;
- and scrapped the chief executive post back in 2009, saving £100,000 a year for their residents.
These are just a few of the steps that Conservatives have managed to implement, many in a minority administration. Councils like Forest of Dean should help to inspire authorities across the country to save your money and cut council taxes when residents need it most.
Do you know examples of cost cutting Conservative councils? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your examples.