Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Your Choice

The hour is nigh and Redbridge Council have commenced their second Big Conversation. This time they are faced with making £25million worth of cuts to their budget and they want your help to decide where to apply the scalpel. It’s a bit like asking someone which arm or leg do you want cut off. Or this?

Only on Monday at the Overview Scrutiny committee meeting there was a delegation protesting about the potential closure of the Ley Street day centre. And the Cabinet Member for Highways bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t have any money to repair the roads.

I’ve not actually been through the You Choose Survey yet, so I can’t tell you what to look out for nor how long it takes. However, I can report that the borough wide public forums on the Redbridge-i website have been opened up to post moderated operation and members can once again create new threads, albeit within themes defined by the council moderators. Here you can debate the consequences of the cuts, discuss options and priorities etc. Except that the forum is suffering from Gants Hill syndrome. It has been out of action for so long that the punters have all gone off and found somewhere else to play and hardly anybody passes by now.

UPDATE: I have now completed the You Choose survey. The thing to watch out for is that there are two sections. The first section is about where or where not to spend money. The second section is about where revenues could be increased. So you may wish to look at section 2 before you make any “cuts”. You can of course go back and adjust your “cuts” if you end up with a council tax reduction of 20% like I did.
Another piece of interesting information is that you can look at the statistics. As of now (Thursday 9th at 14:37) there have been 343 submissions with an average council tax reduction of 5%.

10 comments:

  1. a 20% CT reduction was not enough then?

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  2. I had a look at "You Choose" and there are some interesting critical assumptions there.

    I believe that it is possible to generate an additional £5 million of savings in admin and an additional £5 million in income from rents, charges, council tax - £10 million of the £25 million required. There would need to be a corresponding effort to boost access to benefits so that rents, etc. do actually get paid without hardship.

    There is the other point about the "end game" in all this. If the Government is asking Local Authorities to budget for reductions in what are in effect Government Subsidies, then the Government must specify where it thinks the priorities are for cuts. They cannot simply impose a number on a Local Authority and say "You get on with it!". This will lead to massive inconsistencies between LA areas and thus the dreaded "Postcode Lotteries".

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  3. I had hoped that Redbridge would be in the vangaurd of LAs pub;ishing their detailed expenditure but, alas, no. 61 LAs including our neighbours in Walltham Forest have beaten us to it - see http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/index/council/council-transparency/council-spend.htm .

    Given access to the data, I am sure that local enthusiats, such as found contributing to this illustrous blog, can help find real savings quickly. Transparency would also provide some reassurance as to where the money actually goes.

    It would also be cheaper and more durable than a Big Conversation.

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  4. The data is published by Redbridge!

    See http://www.redbridge.gov.uk/cms/the_council/about_the_council/our_finances_and_performance/payments_over_%c2%a3500.aspx

    Not sure whether I missed it before or its new but it is welcome to see.

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  5. I still maintain that it would be better to know PROPOSED expenditure, stop the rot BEFORE we actually waste it!

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  6. Had an initial dig into the data.

    Can anyone explain why Redbridge would spend £308,000 on Car Hire - Chauffeur Driven, Mini Cabs and Taxis & Private Hire in June-August?

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  7. More to the point can anyone explain why there is NO budget line for travel by "public transport"?

    Gonna have to have a play with those spreadsheets.

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  8. nor does their seem to be aa line for the largest supplier of all - employees.

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  9. As far as I can establish, the spend on taxis is mostly for taking disabled children or those with special educational needs to and from school. The costs of our transport service (which also includes a considerable number of council owned coaches used for similar reasons, as well as taking the elderly to day centres etc.) is currently under review as part of the current budgetary exercise.

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