The printed version of the Local Government Chronicle generally makes for downbeat reading. There are lots of sullen attacks on Eric Pickles. There is lots of whining about "the cuts." Knee-jerk opposition to reform. It actually does a disservice to the "sector" as the LGC calls it , which has generally been innovative and positive in adjusting to the new regime. There is less money but more freedom, less accountability to Whitehall but more to their local residents.
The good news is that the LGC's website includes an excellent blog called The Little Things (£) – a welcome antidote to the defeatism of the printed version. The blog offers success stories in councils which others could learn from.
We read about Cambridgeshire embracing localism. It is to give priority in planning policy to sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) which will reduce flooding.
Cambridgeshire receives the lowest rainfall in the UK, and water resources are limited, but conversely water is ever-present on the county’s surface as it has a generally flat topography, a high water table, and predominantly claysoil that makes it difficult for water to infiltrate.
The piece adds that "Cambridgeshire-specific standards" have been adopted as "not only does this enshrine good design into local policy, but it also makes development in the county more attractive to developers, as it removes ambiguity regarding the types of acceptable drainage."
Another item concerned Sefton Council saving £300,000 a year by reducing fraudulent claims for single person Council Tax discount:
The process was very straightforward. We provided Experian with 25,661 records of people claiming sole occupier status. Experian returned 3,711 records which showed strong evidence of dual or multiple occupancy. We sent out letters to people whose residency check indicated multiple residents. Those receiving letters were asked to provide details of any adult occupant residing at their address. As a result, 2,964 customers responded to the letters providing information on changes within their household. A further 894 reminder letters were issued for non respondents allowing 7 days to respond or lose the entitlement to the Sole Occupier Discount.
We also read about lawyers in Cumbria volunteering to gives talks to school children. And there is an item about the greater use of apprenticeships by Lancashire Council helping to reduce their annual bill for agency workers from £10 million a year to £3 million. Portsmouth has reduced costs and improved their service with a better telephone system. Chesterfield has seen outsourcing produce savings of up to 27%. There is a story about the improvements in Bolton through mobile working by their highway inspectors. And so on.
There is a lot to celebrate in local government. The doom mongers are being proved wrong.