Let me count the ways. Please do add your own ideas.
1. Freeze recruitment.
2. Scrap political advisers.
3. Cut the number of press officers. One rule would be to make sure you have no more than the number of local newspaper reporters. An alternative idea would be to get rid of the press office altogether. Why not just put journalists through to the Leader’s secretary who gives them the number for the relevant councillor?
4. Scrap the council newspaper. Unless, as in the case of my Council, you make it self financing through real, private sector, advertising.
5. Cut the number of Scrutiny Coordinators. One full time person to organise all the scrutiny meetings should be enough.
6. Cut the number of coordinators for assorted other committees and panels.
7. Place more children for adoption. Reducing the number of Looked After children by placing more of them in permanent loving homes is principally good news for them. But it is also good news for the Council Taxpayer. Social workers are often risk averse about adoption but it overwhelmingly offers better life chances than keeping children in care. What is your performance as measured by the number of Looked After Children per 10,000 children in your area? What are the barriers to adoption caused by avoidable bureaucratic delay or politically correct prejudices?
8. For those children who remain in care, where possible send them to boarding schools.
9. Where children remain in care, keep to a minimum sending them to institutional children’s home, but place them for fostering in family homes. This is much better for the children. Also even the specialist, highly paid foster carers who can cope with "challenging" children are far less costly than the phenomenally expensive children’s homes.
10. Cut any subsidies to private landlords.
11. Do you have a Town Hall canteen? How many meals does it serve and
what is its subsidy? Remember to take account of the cost of the space
it is taking up. Probably it should be closed and the council officers
find better fare along the high street at spudulike.
12. Charge to hold events in parks. Make sure you charge enough to
reflect the need to clear up afterwards and protect the grass. Also
that the choice of events is sensitive to the wishes of residents. But often revenue can be secured for events which residents enjoy – annual
fireworks, an ice rink, open air opera, farmers markets, fun fairs, etc.
13. Stop funding translations / interpreting for Council documents and
services and funding refugee lobby groups. This money is much better
spent teaching people English. But even redirecting some of it you
should still find some change for Council Tax cuts.
14. Scrap arts subsidies. Giving subsidies to one theatre so they can
run plays that residents would not be willing to finance by paying to
go and see them is not a reasonable use of Council Taxpayers money.
15. Don’t employ Fair Trade Coordinators.
16. Don’t employ Diversity Officers.
17. The old fashioned Public Lavatories represent pretty poor value for
money in terms of maintenance. Often the buildings could be valuable
capital assets. A better arrangement is to pay pubs a small fee for
agreeing to allow non drinkers to use their loos. Also have more of
those pay toilet cubicles on street corners.
18. Include private sector advertising on Council notice boards.
19. Cease funding Law Centres. (A double saving as they often sue the
local council so the Council Taxpayers end us paying for the lawyers on
20. Libraries. Change the rota system to keep them open during lunch hours and also reduce staff numbers at the same time.
21. Cut spending on advertising. Of course freezing recruitment will
help. If your Council newspaper is fortnightly you can place the
statutory ads there.
22. Scrap school governor training / "support". Just puts people off becoming governors with a lot of bureaucratic jargon.
23. Stop spending money on management consultants.
24. Close the Film Unit if your Council has one. Someone can take
bookings as a sideline – this doesn’t need full time post let alone a
25. Sell off Council owned waste land for market housing.
26. Fewer council buildings. This can mainly be achieved by reducing
the number of staff but also by smarter working. More staff working
27. Use "hot desking."
28. Cancel your annual subscription to the Local Government
Association. This is a surprisingly significant sum. My Council pays
29. Cancel your membership sub to the Local Government Information Unit.
30. Cancel your membership subs to most other bodies you are members of.
31. Or at least push for a reduction. For instance I think there is a
purpose in the London Boroughs being members of London Councils but the
cost is far too high.
32. Stop sending people off to conferences. One advantage of not being
members of these bodies is that there won’t be the same scope for
sending staff off to their events at vast expense.
33. Ensure you have regular updates on projected asset sales. This is a
crucial means of reducing debt and thus the debt interest payments
which are often a big component of what the Council Tax funds.
34. If you don’t have debt and have reserves in the bank. Why are you
keeping the reserves? You will only end up being tempted to spend it on
something. The reserves should be diminished by lower Council Tax.
Remember whose money it is.
35. Spending on the disabled and elderly should be focused on practical
help not funding politicised advocacy lobby groups. Total spending in
this area could be cut leaving room for lower Council Tax while still
spending more on voluntary groups such as Help the Aged that provide
caring, practical help.
36. Employing full time Disabled Access Officers in the Planning
Department is poor value for money. Planning applications have to meet
statutory requirements for disabled access but it should not be for
Councils to engage in "gold plating."
37. Offer partnership deals with neighbouring Councils to reduce admin costs.
38. Use sprinklers in care homes allowing a potential reduction in night staff and safer elderly residents.
39. Shop around for your insurance premiums.
40. Reduce staff training to the statutory minimum.
41. Cease to employ staff to be trade union officials.
42. Charge for use of the staff car park.
43. Reduce the energy bill for street lighting. At present most
Councils have excessive street lighting. As with much else this is due
to a culture of being unduly risk averse over health and safety. Aside
from the cost we cause light pollution and increase our carbon
footprint. For instance if the lights presently go on 30 minutes after sunset to come off at 30 minutes before sunrise, how much
could be saved by having the lights going on an hour after sunset and
switching them off an hour before sunrise?
44. Have periods where only half the lights are switched on (eg between 3am and 5am when scarcely anyone is using the streets.)
45. Scrap Local Education Authority clerking service for school
governor meetings. One of the governors or the headmaster’s secretary
can take the minutes.
46. Put all services out to tender as Essex is doing – with a target of £200 million savings over three years.
47. Remember that voluntary and church groups as well as private firms
may offer a better means of providing a service than the Council’s own
workforce. For instance in providing additional assistance to children
48. Encourage residents to use the Mail Preference Service which stops
addressed junk mail and then saves the cost of disposing of it.
Direct Mail "individually addressed advertising messages" accounts for 181,500 tons nationally. Say a largish council has a 1,000 tons of it
to dispose of at a cost of £83 a ton. That’s £83,000 a year it spends
putting people’s junk mail on landfill.
49. Ban mineral water at meetings. Use tap water instead. This has saved us £36,000 a year in Hammersmith and Fulham.
50. Save money on printing. Stop producing glossy brochures. The
thicker the paper, the shinier the pages, the brighter the colours the
more residents think: "So this is what my Council Tax goes on." The printing bill for a typical council is literally millions of pounds.
51. Turn down the temperature in the Town Hall and other Council
buildings. How low does the temperature get before the heaters come on?
We used to have the windows open and the heaters blasting away at
the same time.
52. Cut transaction costs by offering a discount to those who pay by direct debit, for instance for the Council Tax.
53. Cut transactions cost by facilitating as much as possible via the
website – eg allow parking permits to be renewed online. It also may
make sense to offer discounts for payments online.
54. Take a tough line in dismissing staff for persistent absenteeism.
Monitor those who particularly claim to be sick on Fridays and Mondays.
This will be easier having ceased funding full time union posts as the
unions string out hearings for as long as possible. More positively,
look at ways to improve the health of Council staff. Flu jabs represent
good value for money in reducing genuine sickness.
55.Keep a tight grip on spending on agency staff.
56. Encourage staff to suggest efficiencies. Offer a prize for the best suggestions. But also allow anonymous entries.
57. Ensure that the numbers of staff engaged in health and safety enforcement is kept to the statutory minimum.
58. Combine the post of Finance Director and Chief Executive.
59. Give park wardens targets for imposing Fixed Penalty Notice fines for littering and dog fouling.
60. See if cafes could be opened in redundant park buildings thus allowing a revenue stream to the Council in rent.
61. Assess whether the staff employed to collect fees cost more in
salaries that the income they gather in. For instance if you are
employing three people to collect £15,000 a year from cafes for having
tables and chairs on the pavement, this is not good value for money.
62. Where extra spending would secure a desirable objective consider
whether the money could come from sponsorship rather than the Council.
For instance new street trees could be funded by encouraging households to sponsor a new tree in their street, Christmas lights can be sponsored by local business.
63. End garden waste collection. Apart from the financial cost they do
more harm than good for the environment. Much better value is promoting
composting for instance by offering everyone a free composter.
64. Save money relocating some Council operations to parts of the
country where costs are lower. Westminster Council has saved very
substantial sums by moving back office processing operations and telephony services which don’t require specialist knowledge. There are
now 250-300 staff in Dingwall employed by a company called Vertex
working for Westminster Council undertaking a great range of services.
65. Freeze councillor allowances.
66. Reduce storage costs and insurance costs by making sure the Council is not keeping equipment that is never used.
67. Cut down the number of cars for the Parks Constabulary. It’s better to have them patrolling on foot anyway.
68. Review all the items you charge for. Cease offering services you
charge for which run at a loss and merely duplicate what is offered
commercially or by charities.
69. Cease charging where the transactions costs are greater than the
revenue. For example charging schools to use parks for sports days.
Towing cars away for mild parking offences can break even or run at a
loss despite the heavy fines charged.
70. In the case of some services charge more. Compare your charges to other Councils.
71. Open cafes in the corner of libraries where there is some space.
This could produce revenue as well as attracting more library users.
72. Rationalise the number of Council departments. In Hammersmith and
Fulham we have done this and thus reduced the number of officers on six
73. Look at the cost effectiveness of housing grants. How many people
are employed administering these grants? How many go to owner occupiers
who even if cash poor are asset rich and could be eligible for equity
release schemes to fund home improvements.
74. Scrap politically correct requirements for contractors. For
instance requiring a building firm tendering for work to produce an
"equalities policy." All firms have to abide by plenty of statutory
requirements on equality as it is. Councils should not be involved in
gold plating. It imposes a double cost. Putting off contractors tendering who can’t be bothered with an Equalities Policy
possibly means under up with higher costs. There is also the staff
time taken up with the "assessment" of the equalities policies.
75. Cease funding racially separatist groups.
76. Seek an arrangement with central Government that the Council is
given some financial reward for reducing bills to central Government.
For instance in reducing welfare dependency.
77. Art leasing. Often Councils have valuable works of arts that aren’t
on display and cost money in storage and insurance. Sometimes selling
them may not be appropriate or even legally possible if they have been
given to the Council. But revenue could also be obtained from leasing
the works of arts.
78. Town Hall bookings. Often Town Halls and other municipal buildings
sit empty at weekends. Take a more aggressive and creative stance in
seeking revenue from bookings. Consider using private agencies for this.
79. Charge for teaching other Councils how to set up specialist
services. For instance if you have a CCTV Control Room whose manager
has the relevant qualifications there could be substantial revenue in
him running occasional courses in how to operate it.
80. Speed up the planning process. Charging high fees is reasonable if
there is a quick efficient service. Give clear guidelines about the
basics such as good design in the initial stages but reduce the gold plating demands on matters such as health and safety and disabled
access. A lot of officers spend their time on such matters but the
statutory requirements are quite onerous enough.
81. Put in an arrangement where the Council leader and Cabinet Members
have a firm grip on spending. The threshold for where spending needs to
be authorised by the leader has been reduced from £300,000 to £100,000
in my borough. Of course there is no point in doing this if the leader
is a pussycat who waves everything through.
82. Any recruitment of new posts should be approved by the Vacancy Management Panel chaired by the Council leader.
83. Don’t be too proud to constantly check if other authorities are
achieving lower costs or higher standards for a service and if so if
they are achieving this through greater efficiency. Benchmark.
Benchmark. Benchmark. After that do some more benchmarking.
84. Set maximum number of word limits on the length of reports
submitted by officers. Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of
officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending.
85. Set limits to the length of responses to Member Enquiries. They
should answer the question raised and not be essays on the general
subject. Saving officer time allows for fewer officers to be employed.
86. Youth Clubs and Youth Centres. These should not be run by the
Council: they are typically pretty drab, dreary institutions when they
are. Some of the money saved by closing them could go in higher grants
to charitable and church groups which run youth groups, or partnership
arrangements with the private sector or groups like the Prince’s Trust
who provide facilities for the young.
87. Cease employing Youth Workers. Activities such as Youth Forums and
Youth Parliaments are generally pretty meaningless and low in numbers
participating. Instead look at initiatives that don’t really cost
money. Hosting school debating competitions at the Town Hall for
instance – which can also provide a positive opportunity for children
from LEA and independent schools to mix. These can be organised by the
schools themselves without employment of Youth Workers.
88. Check the list of those outside bodies being given free or
subsidised office space by the Council. For instance trade unions. They
could well be in buildings which could be sold.
89. Where Post Offices are threatened with closure see if there would
be space for them to be relocated in a Council library. This would
offer an income stream while also saving an important local service for
90. Cease employing European Officers. I understand they are
particularly prevalent on County Councils. Essentially they are
propagandists for European integration.
91. Ensure you have the highest possible penalties for staff engaged in fraud.
92. Cease employing Work Experience Coordinators.
93. Scrap all "nanny state" posts. "Five a Day" officers, etc.
94. Use energy saving lightbulbs.
95. Review areas where the Council is operating in competition with the
private sector. Does the Council own any pubs? Or shops? Or leisure
centres? Or theatres? Are libraries providing DVD hire or internet
access at £1 an hour. My council used to own and run a high street
96. Look at the eligibility criteria for some of the services offered.
Should pensioners all be treated the same or should the age limit
sometimes be raised which might allow extra help for the very old as
well as saving money? For instance the London wide TaxiCard scheme
where the London Boroughs each pay hundreds of thousands of pounds a
year. Should we raise the age of those eligible to 70? Why do we give
65-year-olds free taxi rides? One of the residents in my ward is John
Humphrys who is 65 – why should we pay for his taxis?
97. Sell off redundant park lodges by the entrances to parks and
cemeteries for market housing. Apart from the revenue often these
beautiful buildings become eyesore when left empty with their windows
boarded up, etc.
98. Generally claims of "spend to save" or "investment" should be
treated with scepticism. But within budgets there will sometimes be
genuine possibilities. For example, providing more litter bins might be a more cost effective way of reducing street litter than employing more road sweepers.
99. Performance related pay for departmental managers. If they come in
under budget they get a bonus. If they come in over budget they get
their pay docked. I think Westminster do this.
100. Do not have children’s playgroups directly run by the Council.
Instead better value for less money can be achieved through funding
this much needed resource via the voluntary sector, church groups and
independent groups of mothers.
> Related link: 100 questions councillors should ask council officers