It really is time that the Taxpayers Alliance is challenged over its campaign to rubbish local government.
Last year it accused Solihull Council of spending over £3 million on ‘Spin’ – something eagerly leapt on by local media and used by the Liberal Democrats to attack our Conservative administration. The reality was that our PR budget was just £50,000. What they had included was the cost of all statutory notices, all school recruitment advertising (recouped by the council), publishing from Local Strategic Partnership, Children’s Trust etc., publishing and distribution of Children’s Plan, Council Plan and other documents required by legislation, election material and electoral roll publication, public information on access to services, web site design and operation, printing for school brochures, admission guides, Children’s Information Service, etc., etc.
It seems that the Taxpayers Alliance has taken the simplistic approach
of looking just at the ‘Publicity’ line in council accounts into which
the gross cost of all the above is placed as there is no other suitable
heading. It has not analysed the net figure after recoupment from other
agencies or the statutory elements. Ironically in the national Best
Value Satisfaction survey Solihull was in the top three councils for
providing value for money, keeping people informed and keeping our
promises – something even the Taxpayers Alliance should be commending.
Taxpayers Alliance would do better to look at the overall efficiency of
councils. Solihull receives the lowest government grant of any
Metropolitan Authority but still charges a low council tax. This
despite having areas that are rated in 5% and 10% most deprived on
government’s own criteria. We employ one of the lowest ratios of staff
per head of population, are rated as Good by the Audit Commission with
4 star for use of resources and recently identified as a Case Study
model of good practice for managing to reduce child placement costs by
11% whilst maintaining high standards.
Solihull was the first authority to deliver a completed Building
Schools for the Future new school – leapfrogging over the Pathfinder
authorities and have created the largest regeneration scheme outside
the South East, which won Regeneration Partnership of the Year in the
recent national awards.
It would be nice if Taxpayers Alliance praised the efficiency of local
government instead of continually knocking – particularly when Local
government is compared with the inefficiency of central government