England & Wales

Taking the Lib Dem local government pulse

A Chatham House event with councillors from 13 Liberal Democrat councils.  The question we put: with a 30% contraction in local government spending over the next five years (likely according to latest figures from PWC, and Vince Cable’s analysis) what are you going to stop doing (the savage C word) what are you going to do fundamentally differently, and what are you determined to keep doing come hell or high water.    Some councils are standing by ideology, particularly around direct public provision: one for example said that council housing is non negotiable.  The majority were very pragmatic, they will make choices according to ‘what works’.   In Teignbridge, for example, they have recently taken some services back in house, not driven by ideology, but because they believe they can improve it and save money.   Richard Kemp summed up the debate with an interesting analysis of the relationship between local government and the rest of the public sector, business and the third sector.  We have come to be cynical, expecting much less of each other than we should, and must, if we are to meet the challenges ahead.  All in all very interesting.  And one thing they could agree on, when I asked “it’s going to be tough, but do you want the ball?” they emphatically said yes.  I’m looking forward to hearing from councillors of other parties in the weeks to come.