England & Wales Finance

10 real ways to save


In a guest post, Giles Roca, Head of Strategy at Westminster City Council, presents ’10 real ways to save’ in response to the CLG’s publication of ‘50 ways to save’.

I’m sure many will have seen that accompanying yesterday’s local government finance settlement, CLG published ‘50 ways to save’. The Secretary of State said “all parts of the public sector need to encourage creative and innovative solutions” to tackle the immense financial challenges facing the country. I couldn’t agree more. Westminster Council has saved £84m over the last two years while managing to protect front-line services with perhaps the most notable of these schemes being the Tri-borough work that has combined adults, health and library services.

However, despite Eric’s call it’s also clear though that local government could go much further without some of the restrictions imposed on it by central government. Whitehall needs to understand the real ways councils can make tax payers’ money go further. That’s why Eric’s ‘50 ways to save’ should have also included how central government can free up councils to make the savings they need to whilst challenging Whitehall to remove barriers to further cutting waste.

Westminster City Council therefore has published ‘10 real ways for local government to save’ highlighting what central government needs to do to allow it to get on with the job.

People may have other ideas, here are Westminster’s:

  1. Share services – through sharing services with Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham councils we will save £40m a year from 2015/16.  As acknowledged by Eric Pickles today, if our approach was replicated across the country this could save £2bn
  2. Reward councils for creating jobs, reducing crime and helping people to live independently for longer – Our Community Budget pilot showed how within five years we could save £80m per annum across all local public services by radically re-designing how the council works. Central government now needs to implement it
  3. Slash red tape further by reviewing the remaining 156 data returns councils make to central government
  4. Review the 1200 statutory burdens on councils and slash those which are unnecessary
  5. Free-up local government financing to allow medium term financial planning. This will support local government in undertaking more complex, long-term saving programmes
  6. Back the proper devolution of business rates and give councils greater ability to raise local finances.
  7. Slash EU procurement regulations. Research undertaken by the LGA into the impact of EU procurement legislations suggests that some councils spend up to £140,000 a year in staff costs complying with EU procurement regulations
  8. Give councils greater borrowing freedoms. For example, if borrowing limits on Housing Revenue Account were lifted councils could build more homes and help more residents into work
  9. Greater data sharing across the public sector – A Policy Exchange report suggested that up to £33bn could be saved across the public sector by making better use of big data and ultimately making services better.
  10. New powers and incentives to tackle fraud locally. The same Policy Exchange report predicted that up to £3bn could be saved by tackling fraudulent benefit claims. Local government is restricted by central government in tackling fraud.