Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not Invented Here

Earlier this month our one and only Conservative Councillor who blogs and tweets – A Redbridge Blue, otherwise known as Paul Canal – posted a piece on his blog about next year’s council budget and beyond.

This year the challenge is less severe than the “emergency” budget of 2011-12, though the medium term framework is more challenging. Locally we made some difficult, tough and unpopular decisions last year. We also incorporated into our budget plans every Labour idea. (There weren’t any)
Let me know where you think we should spend more, and where we should spend less. I will listen very carefully to those who offer ideas with a negative or zero net cost, and submit the most innovative ideas.
Read it all here.

There have been a couple of news items recently that have caught my eye and I have tweeted, and they also reminded me of a previous post on this blog. The idea of merging London Borough councils to produce ecomonies of scale is not new and was put forward [again] by Ken Livingstone back in 2003 when he was still the London Mayor. Mr Pickles did not like that idea when he was in opposition, but when 3 London Conservative councils decided to merge all their services last year he said they were “leading the way”. That was a year ago yesterday and our Council leader and Deputy had already been over there to see what they could learn, but we haven’t heard anything since.

The thing is that cuts usually hit the important low paid jobs like Nature conservation and rarely have an impact on higher paid jobs. Having said that there has been a reduction in the Redbridge management team, by one if I recall correctly. So, to those two news items.

Islington Borough Council [my home town] have committed to introduce a 10:1 rule where the highest paid officer can only be paid a multiple of 10 times the lowest paid worker who will receive at least the London Living wage of £8.30 per hour. The Chief Executive has already taken a £50,000 pay cut.

On the following day two London councils, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea announced they will be sharing a Chief Executive saving an estimated £200,000 per year. They are also in the process of losing another 500 jobs.

There is nothing new in all this. We, Redbridge, are already part of the East London Waste Authority teaming up with Havering, Barking & Dagenham and Newham. We also share our London Assembly Member with Havering.

So, why not share our management teams? Some of the Authorities outside London are massive in terms of budget and population compared to a London Borough.

And why stop there? Why not share our Councillors too. The government are busily preparing to reduce the number of MPs so why not London Councillors. 63 between two adjacent boroughs seems more than enough in these austere times. We are all in this together … aren’t we?

But not everybody is convinced. Last year Patrick Butler predicted mega councils are doomed to failure and in March this year Mike McNabb labelled them undemocratic. So how are they doing? Anyone know or is the lack of fanfare a sign that things are not going quite according to plan?


1 comment:

  1. Strictly speaking the Chief Executive of Islington has not taken a pay cut. She previously worked in Lewisham as a Director (and, indeed, in Redbridge before that) and was appointed to the Islington post on a salary £50K below that of her predecssor. Slightly different. As for two authorities (H&F and K&C) sharing a Chief Executive, it begs the question whether either genuinely had a full-time post prior to the sharing arrangement.