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Ealing and Northfield

The budget – Missed opportunity

Reading the budget papers I am profoundly dismayed at how tactical and downright myopic the Labour thinking is. There is no evidence whatsoever that the council is moving to do things better. This budget is the equivalent of cutting off each finger, each toe, your nose and ears and sticking pins in your eyes in order to “distribute any cuts as equally as possible”. It would have been better surely to lop off a hand or a leg?

There is no evidence that the council is using this opportunity to do things better. Where is the talk of shared services? I don’t think I have spotted one shared service proposal in this budget. Where are the proposals to tackle the council’s terms of trade with its labour? If we have to have less staff they may as well work the kind of hours that most of their customers do. 35 hour weeks are simply unacceptable. This one change alone is worth £23 million. On its own the council’s top team costs £9.7 million, £100K each for 98 people. Changes here look minimal.

One of the biggest challenges facing the council is how to stop duplicating contacts with the same people, especially those that misbehave. The person who fly tips, gets involved in anti-social behaviour, noise nuisance, dog fouling, etc is often tackled many times over by different “silo-ed” council services, each with its own staff and databases that don’t readily talk to each other. Layer in local health services and police repeating the same interactions and you can immediately see how massive efficiencies could be achieved. Not a peep in this budget even though its horizon is three years. When will the council start getting smarter?

In the same way ward focused resources such as ward forum co-ordinators, envirocrime officers, park rangers, cleaning monitoring people and community safety could be similarly aligned with wards. Add in the skills of councillors and the enthusiasm of residents and you could achieve amazing things by localising these services. Push the budgets out to the wards and the priorities will be seen to quick enough. You can only assume that both the Labour cabinet and the officers don’t see the ranks of Labour councillors as being capable of leading that kind of change. Far better to keep the centre strong and slash the frontline.

Dumb and Dumber are in charge.

3 replies on “The budget – Missed opportunity”

I think that you are right, though I would suggest that the Council has built silos of people that they do not need to be employing. For example, the role of envirocrime officers should be filled by the police and the bizarre department of envirocrime removed to save money, likewise as the Council charges residents for pest control this could be contracted out to someone like Rento-o-kill with an immediate reduction in council costs by making the rat-catchers redundant.
I do not agree with Councillor Stacey that the cuts need not have been as severe as they are. Ealing Council is a woefully inefficient organisation from top to bottom with plentiful opportunities for efficiency, productivity incentives, and user-complaint-driven staff efficiency savings.

Terms of Employment do seem excessively generous – I had no idea 35 hour weeks and 4 weeks paid holiday was the norm – but do not expect Labour to even contemplate changing this. It would mean ‘locking horns’ with the Unite Union who are Labour’s biggest paymaster. As you say elsewhere, this Labour administration will always act to protect their own at the expense of the people who pay their wages, Council Tax payers.

I had no idea 98 people in the Council’s team each earn £100K. I don’t see how that can be justified. At the GLA only a handful of people, ten or less, earned £100K or over.

It is likely to be permanent Council Officers who run this Council, albeit behind the scenes. Our elected Councilors don’t strike one as being full of ability, new ideas, energy and enthusiasm.

Jeff,

I might put in a good word for the envirocrime officers. They are the people who work to fix problems such as fly-tipping. It is great that we have a service to collect the fly-tips but the envirocrime people work out who has done the deed and get them prosecuted. The Price brothers for instance ended up in jail due to their work (they drove around the borough with a flatbed and unloaded it at dead of night for months).

I think what Cllr Stacey was getting at was the cuts to frontline services which people value need not have been as severe, there is still scope to re-organise in the back office and ensure that services that people value are protected.

Peter,

The top team costs include their “on costs” so it is a total cost to employ rather than their salaries.

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