The message is clear – yes it will be brutal. There’ve been a lot of well-meaning conversations in the past year about how mergers, shared back office functions and joint appointments can help councils make the savings expected of them and deliver a broad range of services. I’ve been part of many of these discussions myself. Coffee, however, is now being smelt in town halls across the country. Deputy Leader of Central Bedfordshire, Cllr Richard Stay, gave an uncompromising message to residents yesterday: it’ll be brutal. His council cut £20 million last year, and needs to cut another £20 million next year. The council “cannot do that without cutting services”. 2010, it seems, will be the year when “more for less” died. 2011 will be the year of “less for less”.
Localism Bill slips again. The LGiU’s Dan Garfield told Public Finance yesterday why the Localism Bill matters so much to councils. He said that the Bill and settlement are closely linked. He argued that the Bill will help councils deal with the cuts by giving them new powers and freedoms.
Libraries safeguarded as county council moves to modernise services. Despite new freedoms in the Localism Bill, councils won’t have anything like a free hand to decide what they do or, increasingly, don’t do. Last week, Ed Vaizey wrote to council leaders reminding them of the “importance I place on the statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service”. He’ll doubtless be very pleased that Staffordshire has promised to keep all its “43 libraries in the county” open by “modernising services, making libraries into better hubs for community services and making hours more flexible”.
Pictures Of The Canal At Diggle. December looks being a bleak old month for councils. The chill wind of cuts, as Chris Bryant would doubtless refer to it, will blow through councils across the country on Monday. But, as the picture at the top of the blog from the Saddleworth News shows, even the chilliest weather can have its upside.