I am warming a little to the Local Government Association. I still think its membership subs are the most staggering rip off and for Councils to pull out is a sensible way to save money. I also think its role as the Councils trade union leads it to defend bad as well as good Councils (most despicably defending Haringey over Baby P.)
But there have been a couple of recent reports from the LGA that would provide a lot of useful material for a new Conservative Government. First they had one on Quangos pointing out the cost and unaccountability of some of the worst offenders.
Now they have produced a report Delivering more for Less which offers an estimate of the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy imposed on local councils from Central Government. Collecting endless data imposes a cost on central government, who collect it, as well as councils, who supply it. In 2007 the Government announced that it had introduced a "National Indicator Set" of performance indicators for Councils to report on which was to amount to 198 indicators. The Government themselves estimate that the actual figure is 261. Furthermore the number of datasets, reports and evaluations for collection amounts to 3,000 a year. In 2006 the accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper estimated the cost of all this compliance at £2 billion – or £1.8 million to average Council. In my Council £1.8 million in savings funds a 3% Council Tax cut. The LGA reckon the bill is now £2.3 billion.
On top of all this the LGA estimates that the cost of central government of all this admin is £1.5 billion – which would reduce the costs of seven Government Departments which work closely with local Councils by 20% or back to their 2000/01 level . The staffing levels at the Department of Communities and Local Government has risen by 10% in the past year alone. Another £430 million could be spent on unnecessary spending by Quangos on monitoring local government. The report suggests that all this data collection does nothing to improve services. The Government justify it on the basis that it provides "reassurance" to Ministers that their priorities are being met.
But what should be setting the priorities for Councils? Ministers in Whitehall or the locally elected councillors. One benefit of "localism" would be a saving of £4.5 billion a year.