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.
Reading Thaler and Sunstein’s book ‘Nudge’ set me thinking once again about how some of their ideas could be used to manage demand for local government services when management of scarce financial resources has never been more difficult.
Local Government owns £250B of property with an estimated one fifth of revenue expenditure going into managing that property. This was a fact that made me sit up in my seat when I attended an event on Local Authority Estate Transformation in Manchester the other day.
When APSE launched its research publication ‘The virtuous green circle: creating a revolving fund for local authority solar energy’, in Birmingham recently, I was impressed by the number of authorities present who were making progress with delivering projects in this area of renewable energy.
Took part in Guardian online debate today on managing parks and green spaces despite the budget cuts and with over 100 posts in two hours it was a lively debate.
I pushed the APSE line about whilst we disagree with the cuts we recognise that they are happening and therefore we need to find ways to stop services from imploding. The only response is to seek efficiency, generate additional income and innovate.