Scrap chief executive post and ban mineral water, Pickles tells councils
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
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Scrapping the chief executive post, sharing services and banning mineral water in meetings are just some of the suggestions communities secretary Eric Pickles has put forward as ways for councils to save money.
He released the '50 ways to save' document to coincide with his announcement on cuts to town hall budgets which will see councils face up to 8.8% of spending reductions from April. The overall reduction in spending power next year, he said, will be 1.7%.
The communities secretary said the cuts were fair and that directly retaining business rates and the new homes bonus would ensure "striving councils will benefit from doing the right thing for their communities".
He said: "If they bring in jobs and business, they will be rewarded. Similarly, the new homes bonus remunerates councils for building more homes. Next year the bonus will be worth more than £650 million, and even more in 2014-15. Under our reforms, an estimated 70% of local authority income will be raised locally, compared with a little over half under the current formula grant system. That is a giant step for localism."
However, Labour's shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said that it is clear Pickles "is living in a world of his own".
He said: "...Local authorities have made big efficiency savings, cut costs and laid off 230,000 staff—but still, it is services that are going.
"Let us be clear about what is being lost due to the right hon. Gentleman’s unfair cuts—libraries, sports centres, Sure Start centres and places at women’s refuges. Birmingham city council says that because of the cuts and spending pressures, its controllable budget will reduce by half in the next six years. In one case, a council has already been pushed to the brink. Earlier this year, Tory-led West Somerset council was declared to be “not viable” in the longer term—not by Nostradamus, but by the Local Government Association."
He also quizzed why the 10 most deprived local authorities are having their spending power reduced by eight times as much per head of population as the 10 least deprived authorities in England?
Pickles said the settlement was fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and mets. But that it was also a "watershed moment".
He said: "For the first time in a generation, striving councils now have licence to go full steam ahead and grab a share of the wealth for their local areas and to stand tall and seize the opportunities of enterprise, growth and prosperity."