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 â€œdistribute any cuts as equally as possibleâ€. 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 donâ€™t think I have spotted one shared service proposal in this budget. Where are the proposals to tackle the councilâ€™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 Â£23 million. On its own the councilâ€™s top team costs Â£9.7 million, Â£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 â€œsilo-edâ€ council services, each with its own staff and databases that donâ€™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 donâ€™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.