England & Wales

The BBC’s lazy council cuts story

The BBC survey of 49 local authorities has been widely reported with the headline of ‘cuts’. The survey is shallow and the reporting sloppy. A waste of money from an organisation that itself needs to operate much more efficiently.

Shock findings: Councils are going to be at the hard end of reductions in public spending over the next three to five years. Non statutory services will face the biggest squeeze

Sloppy reporting: If we aggregate up the responses to our naff survey we can come up with big numbers that our editors will like, especially if they relate to ‘job losses’ ‘cutbacks’ ‘axe’ ‘under threat’

The real numbers are actually bigger than the ones the BBC suggests and if they took the trouble to do a quick bit of googling research they could have found them. The recent CIPFA paper, which I blogged about, profiles 15% to 30% reductions in local governments cost base. Note that I say reduction in cost base. To just say ‘cuts’ is a fatalistic and flawed approach. Yes there will be cuts, we have to be realistic and honest about that. But what we have to focus on is how to make services more efficient and effective, such as through a greater emphasis on prevention, so that what the public see are services and more importantly the social outcomes, getting better even at a time of financial constraint. I’d like the BBC to put equal effort into looking into this aspect of the debate, and then it would actually be doing something useful.