Ex-Mayor Livingstone Public sector waste

Rubbish, stupid rubbish

The second lead story in the Telegraph today was this story about how councils should be able to charge for rubbish collection in order to allow them to reduce landfill and avoid swingeing EU fines. This story originates with the Local Government Association who warn that we are “the dustbin of Europe” sending 27 million tonnes of rubbish to landfill every year compared to Germany’s 10 million tonnes. The LGA’s press release is here.

How dumb is this proposal? Do we want rubbish all over our streets? Do we want neighbours at war with each other? Do we want to give councils an excuse to make an additional charge but not reduce the council tax? Do councils really want to invite residents to compare the price for their services with those available on the open market? Could councils really make this charge without the option of an opt out?

The worst part of this proposal is that by unbundling this component of the council’s services you would make the rest seem even more unnecessary and irrelevant to most people. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

belvedere-incinerator.jpgThe LGA and the recycling industry are also being really disingenuous about incineration. One reason we do lots of landfill is because we don’t do much incineration. Incineration linked to local heat and power schemes is potentially a great solution.

It is a shame that the London Mayor is so against it. Only yesterday the Standard reported that the Belvedere incinerator, which will take 500,000 tonnes out of landfill on its own and power 66,000 homes, has been given the go-ahead by the High Court. The judge said that the Mayor’s case was “totally without merit” and awarded costs against him due to the “hopelessness of the claim”. It seems though the Mayor is prepared to waste another £150,000 of our money taking his hopeless claim forward.

It is worth noting that the Telegraph can have a front page story that confuses imperial tons with metric tonnes and talks about “bin bugs” that can weigh rubbish. No, they are radio frequency id tags that allows bins to be identified so that when they are weighed you could, if you wanted, know whose bin weighed what. If our journalists are this scientifically challenged there is little hope for our economy in the long run!

Public sector waste

Hammersmith & Fulham council tax to go down 3%

cllr-stephen-greenhalgh-council-tax-cut.jpgOur neighbours, Conservative controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, are making a big splash today with an announcement of a 3% reduction in council tax.

One of the H&F Conservatives’ main pledges at the last local elections in May last year was to reduce council tax to Wandsworth levels.

This 3% cut is their first step. They are running against a national trend which will see many councils up in the 5% increase zone. We will see a small increase in Ealing this year as indicated by our own leader in December (see previous posting). As H&F’s photo shows the London Mayor will be in the vanguard of high increases looking at over 5% after last year’s 13.5% increase (see previous posting).

See press release.

Their leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, said:

This is the first budget since the May 2006 election and we are combining lower tax with more cash for things that matter to residents. The council is pumping in £1.5million over two years to pay for round the clock beat policing in our town centres as well as spending more on schools and providing free homecare for our most vulnerable residents.

We were elected to cut council tax bills and deliver better front line services and this is what our first budget does. While other councils are piling more tax on their residents we are reversing that trend and turning back the clock so that our council tax is now at 2004 levels. That’s got to be great news for everyone, particularly for our pensioners and those on low incomes.

Public sector waste

LSC waste £116 million re-organising themselves

The Telegraph this morning carries a report relating how the Learning and Skills Council has managed to spend £54.4 million making its own staff redundant since it was created in 2001. Add to that a further £61.9 million spent in the year before its launch winding up its predecessor, the national network of Training and Enterprise Councils. That brings the total bill to more than £116 million since 2000.

It was David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, who uncovered the figures through a series of written Parliamentary questions.

Typically of New Labour non-managers in the public sector these quangocrats have no conception of cost control. If they did they would question having a Belgravia address for their London office:

Learning and Skills Council
8-10 Grosvenor Gardens

Unfortunately the swanky West End HQ is standard procedure in the education sector:

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
83 Piccadilly (overlooking Green Park)

33 Kingsway

Ofsted might actually be ashamed of their offices just up from the Waldorf Hotel, round the corner from the Royal Opera House. If you go to the Contact us page of their website it looks like their HQ might be in Manchester, but no this is just the postal address of the North regional centre and in fact the HQ is in Kingsway, see Office locations.

Public sector waste

Do young councillors want too much?

Towards the end of the Today programme this morning (follow link and go to 2:47:20) they covered a new survey from the New Local Government Network asking for more cash for councillors (See press release). They claim that young people are put off from being councillors because allowances are too mean. The NLGN survey cites strong support for better allowances from young councillors and warns of the risk of losing a “golden generation of young politicians”.

miranda-grell.jpgIn the spirit of debate the Today editors put a young Labour councillor from Waltham Forest, Miranda Grell, up against a retiring Independent of 36 years standing, Robin Page. Young Ms Grell, only elected in May, whinged:

It’s like a full-time job these days. It’s extremely demanding, it’s emotionally exhausting, physically punishing, mentally draining.

Poor dear! It sounds like she is trying to be an amateur social worker instead of holding her social services department to task to provide a good service.

Councillor Page did rather blow her off the stage:

Self service has replaced public service. … Now I see self-servers and they want the allowances to match the size of their own egos. And they see Council Tax as a hole in the wall and they can just take the money out.

As we see in Parliament as you pay people more money you don’t necessarily get a better quality of MP or councillor. To call them a golden generation is an absolute joke.

I hate to sound like an old fogey, I am 45 this month myself, but if inexperienced young people want more cash to take part in local politics then maybe we should content ourselves with older folk who have more life experience and are happy to contribute for a small allowance rather than a full salary. More for less? Yes please.

Public sector waste

Cost of Parliament – £455 million

Browsing a few blogs tonight I came across a New Year posting at Burning Our Money. The conclusion was that our government and politics just goes on making law and and spending cash without restraint because they have no restraints. Burning Our Money calls for a set of rules that would limit governments.

The first place to look is the cost of Parliament itself.

I did a bit of research. Judging by the House of Commons and Lords accounts our masters spent £322.6 million running the House of Commons last year (although this included an exceptional item of £129.3 million), £155.3 million on members’ pay, expenses, etc and £106.4 million for the House of Lords. That is £455 million of our cash every year just to run Parliament. The first rule should be keep the whole thing to a budget of £250 million that gets uprated in line with the CPI every year – which is the kind of discipline Gordon Brown demands of local authorities and any business demands of its managers.

Back at the start of the month when MPs were fantasising about £100K salaries (see previous posting) I put up a petition at the Number 10 site limiting the cost of Parliament. If you agree with me that MPs and Parliament as a whole should have to contain their spending within limits rather than just being able to vote themselves any salary and perks that they like, you might like to sign the petition that I have started at the Number 10 e-petitions site.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to fix the budget for Parliament and link it to inflation such that MP’s salaries can only increase if they save money elsewhere.

Follow link.

Public sector waste

£100K civil servants treble

Last night the Evening Standard carried a story telling how the number of civil servants earning over £100K had trebled. “In 2001, 320 staff at 25 public sector bodies earned £100,000 or more. By this year the figure had soared to 996.” The story is picked up today by the Telegraph and the Mail.

The story is not new. Government ad spending has trebled, the number of spin doctors has trebled and spending on lawyers has doubled.

I don’t suppose that the 996 include the 76 people paid over £100K by Transport for London all by itself.

Ex-Mayor Livingstone Public sector waste

Another stupid tax

lscp.gifThe London Safety Camera Partnership is another stupid bit of London government that costs us a lot but achieves very little. They also hate scrutiny and take the longest time to fess up to what they do.

In the summer I was harassing them to publish their figures. They had not published any on their website since their 2002/3 ones. I wrote to them in August and they finally managed to put them up on their website on 16th October. See PDF. Six and a half months after your year end is a little pedestrian I think. Still no figures for the two years before.

What the figures show is that the eye watering speeding fines you get simply get spent on their costs and very little is left behind to do anything that you or I might actually value. Last year LSCP collected £9,455,820 in fines. They spent most of it in costs of £8,832,898 leaving a surplus of £622,922 or just 6.6% of their income. It is one thing collecting fines but to waste them all in collecting the money in the first place is pretty tragic.

They are not good at being transparent with their minutes either although they do give occasional insights to their mindset. They put up a big batch of minutes on 5th January when the website was set up and then another batch on the 2nd August. The last meeting covered is 30th June. God knows what they have been doing since then. Still, you can actually find some laughs in the minutes such as this gem from the 44th board report.

David Kessly (TfL) concluded that having such a hefty surplus (£710,000) was not the ideal predicament, particularly when it is all returned to the DfT.

Translating this statement into real language you get: As a representative of TfL I regret that we mismanaged our finances such that we made a surplus which we had to return to central government. If we had done our job properly we would have found some wasteful activity to spend this surplus on such that we ended up with a near zero surplus. You see these partnerships are meant to return their surpluses to the Department for Transport but the people in charge would rather waste your cash. Hence their £800K ad campaign earlier this year (see previous posting).

High tax, low pay Public sector waste

Prescott’s sign

The Conservative party are today highlighting the cost of changing Prescott’s job title. A new sign for his office cost £645 and new business cards cost £726. The new sign reads “Deputy Prime Minister’s Office” instead of “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister”.

You might think so what? But in high tax, low pay Britain somebody spent the year on the minimum wage doing 37.5 hour weeks to earn £10,342.50 and pay £931.79 in tax. Add in National Insurance and you can see the correlation. When you have a government that spends so freely you even have to tax the low paid hard to pay for the privileges of our masters.

Communications disease Public sector waste

Newspaper job ads under threat

Online media news source BrandRepublic is today covering an idea from Conservative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne:

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has vowed to move all public sector job ads from newspapers to a new official website if his party comes to power after the next general election.

This plan could result in newspapers, particularly The Guardian’s Wednesday Society section, losing around £790m spent by local and central government on job ads each year. The dedicated public sector website would only cost an estimated £5m.

This is a great idea as state bodies are typically not run by people who understand value for money. In the private sector you think very hard before spending out on job ads in the Sunday Times and the Guardian. You almost always go to the much cheaper and better targeted trade press first.

In local authorities, which are relatively small organisations with very standard needs, they place very expensive ads in the ST and Guardian without engaging brains.

It is the same for schools where the Times Educational Supplement is something like a £250 million business whose entire revenue is taken straight out of the education budget. The school at which I am a governor is just about to place its second ad in TES for a headteacher.

Not only would this measure stop the Guardian living off the state but Murdoch also. Double whammy!

Public sector waste

MPs and Parliament out of control

MPs asking for itAll the papers are full of the MPs want £100K story. Most people think that they are taking the Mickey. They may be worth larger salaries but they can’t have those AND large pensions AND generous allowances AND plush offices in Portcullis House (one of the most expensive offices ever built) AND long recesses AND free airport parking AND SO ON.

One way of controlling them would be to set a fixed budget, linked to inflation, for all of Parliament and its activities. MPs could then decide to have lower pensions or less support staff if they wanted to have higher salaries. They might decide to have less MPs or to relocate to a cheaper location. Everyone who manages a business or a part of the public sector has to submit to this kind of discipline. So should our MPs.

If you agree with me that MPs and Parliament as a whole should have to contain their spending within limits rather than just being able to vote themselves any salary and perks that they like, you might like to sign the petition that I have started at the Number 10 e-petitions site.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to fix the budget for Parliament and link it to inflation such that MP’s salaries can only increase if they save money elsewhere.

Follow link.