England & Wales

What we’re reading 23/11/10


Councils should be at heart of Big Society. LGiU Director Jonathan Carr-West said in Public Finance that, while it was good for community groups to run services, “only local government can provide accountability and ensure that public money is spent effectively”.

Council ruins Christmas. Bradford Council is being accused of “ruining Christmas” by the Unite union for placing its entire staff on notice in anticipation of making 2,000 redundancies. This is a little unfair on the council. It’s very tough to run a rigorous, transparent redundancy process without putting everyone on notice. The timing, of course, is awful but that’s hardly the council’s fault. The simple fact is that making redundancies to keep pace with the government’s demand for enormous savings will be a demoralising, depressing process. Nick Clegg’s pronouncement that councils should hold off and hope for the best is simply wishful thinking.

Speeding. There’s a growing recognition on both the left and right that Big Brother-style government is undesirable and doesn’t work. But objecting to Big Brother is easier said than done. What, for instance, do you replace speed cameras with? Incentives or a citizen-led approach may have the answer.

What publishing Whitehall data means for local government. Excellent write-up of the launch event for the government’s spending website. The data released amounts to 194,000 lines of text and £80 billion of spending. One concern raised at the event was that there’s no funding for people to cross check the data “as the tools that held government to account – journalists – have historically been cross subsidised by other sources such as small ads”. I’m not sure that’s true. I’m optimistic that new and existing organisations (including, dare I say it, think tanks?) will fill the gap created by the demise of the mass media. The creation of a £6 billion industry sounds about right to me.

Prime Minister launches Big Society Awards. This story does exactly what it says on the tin. Award winners will receive a certificate from the PM. No Children in Need-style novelty cheques in the Age of Austerity, then.