After hearing much about Barnet Councils ‘Future Shape’ project which estimates budget savings of 20%, dubbed by the media as ‘Easy Council’ after the EasyJet budget airline business model, Lambeth have now offered an alternative: the ‘John Lewis Council’. As a co-operative council, residents of Lambeth would be asked to get involved with the running council services and could be in line for financial rewards if savings are made.
There are two very different models of service delivery being proposed here: the Barnet model which offers choice of services but for additional payment and the Lambeth model that asks citizens for a mutual approach to service delivery in exchange for possible council tax rebates.
Putting the association of quality (of lack thereof) aside, the EasyCouncil model troubles me. Not because 20% savings are bad, indeed I am sure many people would favour paying less council tax, but I haven’t seen any mention yet of how users will be involved in the processes of making the decisions on which services should be universal and which should be treated as a top-up extra. This needs to be addressed.
I also have some reservations about the John Lewis model. Citizen involvement in prioritising services is absolutely essential and it is clear that user involvement is a key element of this model, but I am yet to be convinced that citizens would want to be involved in the actual delivery of services.
Whether either of these models is fully realised is an altogether different question. With local elections in London taking place on 6 May, residents of Lambeth and Barnet will get to have their say.
My colleague Jonathan, thinks its more a question of red mutualism v blue mtualism – you can read what he thinks about it on the Public Finance blog