The local government think tank Localis has produced a paper with KPMG, The Bottom Line, suggesting an approach Councils should take to achieve savings of 20%. This ambition is based on what may well prove a requirement if the Institute of Fiscal Studies interpretation of the 2009 Budget figures that Local Government will face spending cuts in Government grant of 7% a year for three years from 2011.
The paper is more outlining a general approach than offering a shopping list of examples. But it suggests that swimming pools, libraries and other oublic amenities could often be provided "more effectively by businesses, charities, social providers or a combination of providers." Rather than the lazy assumption that they have to be the service provider themselves the Council should see itself as becoming "a commissioning and procurement hub." Sometimes a service that it "identified as marginally beneficial" should not be provided at all – whether by the Council directly or by the Council paying someone to provide it.
Back office efficiency savings cretainly provide plenty of further scope but there also needs to be greater focus on procurement. Partnership savings can work – but they are much better when the Councils initiatie them rather than having them imposed from above. Councils needed to pay far more attention to sweating (or selling) their £80 billion property assets,
The paper also advocates the release by Town Halls of more information, such as performance data, "in real time" The "presumption of information ownership needs to be reversed" so that it is owned by the citizens nless it can be proved damaging.