The Government has come up with 10 suggestions of how to protect front line services by finding savings elsewhere. Among the helpful insights are "Council services must be focused on the customer." "Make services more efficient" "Check performance against others." "Motivate staff to help to perform to the best of their ability." "Make managers leaders of innovation to improve services." "Streamline management." The full report has a bit more detail but it is all pretty banal.
Will all the Council CEOs on six figure salaries reading it suddenly shriek: "Eureka! Let's focus on the customer!" I'm sure many councils could do more on bench marking and reducing costs through shared
services and joint procurement. But will this never have occurred to them before this report came out? There will also be much hollow laughter as it is frequently centralising regulation from Whitehall that gets in the way of saving money.
The report is published by the Department for Communities and Local Government's Putting the Frontline First Task Force. I have emailed the DCLG Press Office to ask how much money was spent on it and what fees, if any, were paid to the two Labour council leaders who wrote it: Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese and Sir Steve Bullock, the directly elected Mayor of Lewisham.
They are hardly the most obvious choices. Were the DCLG to have consulted there own table (Click on Table 6) showing the Council Tax levels this year there would see that they have grouped Lewisham under Inner London. In that category its Band D Council Tax of £1,352 (including the Mayor of London's precept) is higher than any other Council. Worse than Lambeth. Worse than Hackney. Worse than Tower Hamlets. Lewisham is secretive about what it pays its Chief Executive. Eventually they admitted that they it was £188,000.
Manchester does a bit better in the Greater Manchester bracket with a Band D level of £1,326 – although beating Wigan and Oldham both of which have been written about here recently is scarcely a triumph. But why has Trafford – with a Band D Council Tax of £1,272 – not been asked for their tips instead? Perhaps because it is a Conservative council.
Since Sir Richard has offered us ten tips to save money, here are ten rather more tangible tips for him to save money in Manchester:
1. If Sir Richard really wants to put the front line first why doesn't he stop hosting the Nuclear Free Local Authorities?
2.Or £8,000 on a paper telling older people to have sex more often?
3. Or translating documents on pigeon feeding into Urdu?
4. Or £1.4 million on sculptures then mothballed?
5. Or cease having a chauffeur?
6. Or cutting back on the 383 staff employed by the Council on over £50,000 a year?
7. Or sell off that white elephant the Urbis building, where millions a year in subsidies are poured?
8. Or wasting money on such projects as the £36.5 million Gateway Interchange bridge which has never been used?
9. Or spending money on a special new car park just for councillors?
10. Or spending £736,388 a yearon mobile phones? Perhaps a spot of benchmarking would be in order.
Here are ten tips for Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bulloch.
1, Cut your allowances from £77,722 to the average for a borough council leader. A spot of benchmarking should provide guidance as to a more reasonable figure.
2. Cease employing a Promoting Healthy Weight Advisor (£41,834- £45,358 – 35 hour week.)
3. Cease spending £10,635 taking six senior staff to stay at a luxury hotel.
4. Increase the recycling rate in Lewisham (currently the worst in London apart from Tower Hamlets). This would save money compared to sending the stuff to landfill or incineration.
5. While getting on with achieving green objectives, like the one above, scrap the gimmicks like spending £156,000 a year on the "Climate Change Innovations Fund." Or £22,5000 producing a Climate Change Policy Statement?
6. Why not reduce your Communications spending from £2.25 million to the £836,000 we get by with in Hammersmith and Fulham?
7. The number of children in care in Lewisham, "Looked After Children", is 470 – more than twice the level in Wandsworth. (See table LAA5.) Lewisham's budget allows an extra £500,000 for an increase in the number. Is Lewisham really focuses on removing barriers to adoption from political correctness and bureaucratic delay? (For instance children being kept in care because an "ethnic match" couldn't be found.) Rduce the number of Lewisham children being brought up by the state – increase the number placed in permanent loving homes.
8. Reduce the number of homeless in temporary accommodation. Both expensive and completely unsatisfactory for the families concerned. Lewisham record is among the worst in London. 59 households in Bed and Breakfast hotels. 305 in hostels. The number under the "Duty owed but no accommodation provided" category was the highest in London at 517. Do those people feel Sir Steve is putting the front line first?
9. Don't spend £11.52 million buying up shopping centres.
10. Cease employing five full time staff to be full time trade union activists.