Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bradford could just give Cullingworth the cash and let us get on with it?


There’s a dawning realisation that – while the ‘cuts’ will result in an net increase in Government spending by 2014 – they are going to have a massive impact on the delivery of services. Already we see the doom and gloom headlines:

Birmingham City Council to make £230m of savings


Chief executive Tony Reeves can't rule out compulsory redundancies


5,600 Bristol public sector jobs are set to be axed within six years

The volume of ill-informed shouting is rising (such as describing £230 million from a £3,500 million budget as 25%) and this is drowning out those voices asking whether this really is a chance to do things rather differently. And within the Councils themselves the focus is on those elusive, mythical beasts – “efficiency savings”. Recruitment freezes (a further joyous nail in the Guardian’s coffin I hope), better sickness management, senior management restructures, facililies consolidation and the delights of ‘cuts talk’.

What I don’t hear from these big councils is – we’ll stop doing it. Let’s hand our assets over to community organisations, to parish councils, to new trusts. Let’s find out whether effective, flexible public service delivery is possible without the superstructure of massive local council bureaucracy. And let’s try out other solutions – social enterprise, the voluntary sector, small business, co-ops, self-help groups – to delivering local services.

Perhaps we might take the idea of a ‘place cheque’ promoted so keenly by the Local Government Association and apply it to local communities – handing over the cash the Bradford spends in Cullingworth on street cleaning, emptying bins, filling in potholes, fixing street lights and providing a warden service. And the parish council, the ward members, the village hall management and others can buy the services we need – back from the Council or from other suppliers if that’s our wish.

It has to be worth a try – but I’ll be holding my breath a long time before we see it happen!


No comments: