In 2009 I wrote a post for this site entitled 100 ways to cut Council Tax without cutting key services. At the time they caused some controversy – not least from Labour council leaders that subsequently implemented many of the items.
Last year the Department for Communities and Local Government offered a “50 ways to save” list inspired by my earlier effort.
Today I am delighted that the Taxpayers Alliance have published a new list of 201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government.There are so many innovations by individual local authorities that others could learn from. To suggest that the potential has been exhausted is the most defeatist nonsense. The potential for further spending cuts without service cuts is vast.
The scale of savings is deliberately varied. Some items – such as outsourcing, sharing services and debt interest reduction – can each amount to tens or even hundreds of millions in annual savings for larger local authorities.
Other items are more modest – amounting to a few thousand. Some could be shrugged off as mere common sense – missing the point that common sense is a rare and precious commodity in local government. Others are not solely, or even primarily motivated by reducing cost. Reducing bureaucracy is about allowing more freedom – not just achieving a lower cost due to fewer bureaucrats being needed.
Reducing the number of children in care is transformational for those involved – not just a matter of cost cutting. Often reducing spending can be achieved not merely while maintaining a service but enhancing a service.
Cumulatively what follows amounts to more than a checklist but an attitude of mind concerned about value for money. That is not easy to achieve in the public sector. After decades of rigorous leadership Wandsworth Council has a culture where saving money is a “a process not an event.” That approach is one of the most important and hardest to achieve.