If local government thought 2011 was tough, 2012 may be about to get a whole lot tougher. With an estimated 145,000 job losses in councils over the previous 12 months, some may have thought the heavy lifting had been done. However, my fear is that whilst many have made significant progress in efficiency programmes, this may prove difficult to sustain – and the knock-on effect for councils that didn’t quite get there in year one could be catastrophic. With ongoing redundancies, wage freezes, rising pension payments and inflation remaining relatively high, morale will be near the floor.
APSE’s first strategic forum of the New Year took place last night on the theme of energy efficiency in asset management. Guest speaker was David Kilduff, Head of the Commercial Group at Walker Morris Solicitors, who gave an overview of the issues facing local government in this area.
These events are used as an opportunity to develop policy and share knowledge.
Many local authorities are considering the alternative models of service delivery that exist as part of their on-going plans to deal with the financial austerity they face over coming years. Issues that should be close to the top of any list when weighing up the pros and cons of each option are governance and accountability.
I recently met with colleagues from Bradford Council to discuss how they had been involved in Insourcing the City’s Education Services from Serco. 1,300 staff were transferred back to the authority in July this year from a £53m per annum contract.
Although many Armageddon prophecies have been written about the coalition Government’s proposed cut to Feed in Tariffs for solar PV and its impact on the wider renewables agenda, I have to say that I don’t quite buy this vision of the future.
Now that we are over halfway through the financial year, more and more councils are revisiting plans they have made to generate efficiency savings to see if they will stack up and achieve their desired outcome for this year and beyond.
At APSE, we have noticed an upsurge in enquiries about how you make remaining services more commercially viable by either reducing costs or generating additional revenue to offset budget cuts. This suggests that councils are concerned they may fail to meet existing targets and are attempting a ‘take two’.
A huge debate is taking place at present about which are the best models available to divest public services through. I have got to say I remain to be convinced. Whatever service options local authorities decide to pursue in future the benchmark against which to appraise the options is the existing in-house service. Does any alternative form of provision meet or surpass the benefits that managing services directly yourself brings.
The housing crisis is back. For many in local government dealing with the consequences of homelessness, overcrowding and poor stock condition, it has never really gone away. The difference is that the problem is now reaching previously untouched sectors of society – and it's about to get worse.
Home ownership is predicted to drop to 63%, its lowest level since the mid 1980s, a whole generation are 'locked out' of the housing market, and there is chronic lack of supply of new homes, according to the Oxford Economics' report that recently hit national headlines.
Many extravagant claims have been made about the potential benefits that co-operatives and mutuals could bring as service delivery vehicles for the provision of local public services. However, when the evidence is examined in detail do these claims stand the test of scrutiny? This is what the latest research publication by APSE ‘Proof of delivery’ sets out to explore. This research was undertaken through APSE’s knowledge transfer partnership with De Montfort University.
Some of the unsung heroes in the aftermath of the riots of earlier this week were the street cleansing crews who returned city centres to some semblance of normality with maximum efficiency and the minimum of fuss. Whilst senior political figures were quick to praise the public response with brooms and bin bags and cite it as an example of the ‘Big Society’, in reality many were turned away as local authority crews had been out from 5.30am and dealt with much of the clean up by the time the public actually arrived.