Cllr Liam Maxwell, the lead member for Policy and Performance at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, reports
In March last year Windsor and Maidenhead voted to leave the LGA. It is a bizarre set of rules that require one year’s notice but our time is almost up and we’re about to finally leave.
During this year we have had a wide range of discussions with members and officers to try and identify what benefit we gain from the £40,000 that it costs us to be a member.
The report is here and it gives an even-handed approach to the costs and benefits involved. However of the 10 reasons cited for lobbying successes, almost all of these have been down to the change of government and not the LGA.
Other items raised as key membership benefits:
- The pensions advice from the LGA is described as a key benefit, although it could be had from solicitors elsewhere. Sharing legal services may well help reduce this cost and the claimed hourly rate (£500) is open to question.
- The national daily newspaper headlines service can be provided online for free – or for little cost for FT, Times and LCG/MJ subscriptions.
One particular piece of evidence in the report gives the game away. “Email alerts are issued by the LGA with advance notice of potentially negative stories, highlighting potential ‘knocking’ stories and preparing robust responses.”
Yes, our membership fee pays for advice on how to defend ourselves from criticism. Surely councillors and officers who are on top of their briefs can do this for themselves and don’t need to be spoon-fed by a publicly funded lobbying organisation.
The LGA uses public funds to lobby (how successfully?) public bodies. It is surely the first back office cut anyone should contemplate. There is always a balance to be struck between legitimate back-office costs and those that don’t add value for residents. In this case it is difficult to strike that balance: why divert funds for frontline services to fund this talking shop – one that seems to be getting steadily out of touch with its core group of members and following others' highly political agenda.
It doesn’t speak for us and it costs more than it saves.
Save yourselves some money for front line services and leave the LGA.
In another piece Cllr David Burbage will be explaining here what we’re going to do with the saving.