England & Wales

What we’re reading 26/11/10


Gove criticised for councils’ ‘critical new role’ in education. The LGiU’s John Fowler told Public Finance that council’s “new” strategic role “did not involve anything councils had not already been doing for years”. He went on to say that “they won’t have the money that they have been getting for things like school improvement”. The LGA’s Shireen Ritchie was cheerier. She said she was “pleased” that ministers had opted to keep councils part of the education finance system. I’d agree with Shireen that that was a win for local government. It must be said, however, that it was a relatively modest one.

Pickles dismisses LGA’s “fag packet” figures. Eric’s not been impressed by the LGA’s estimate that 140,000 people in local government will lose their jobs as a result of government spending cuts. Harry Phibbs has pointed out that their methodology doesn’t sound totally robust:

The Local Government Group undertook desk research on announcements from councils and press articles over the past twelve months, which referred to the number of posts that will be cut. For those authorities where no announcement or article was available, missing values were estimated using the observed ratio of cuts to employment headcount, to provide an estimated total for all councils.

Others have argued that it’s odd to see the LGA changing course mid-stream: from arguing that the cuts were manageable to holding their hands up in horror.

This all sounds like fair criticism. It should be pointed out in the LGA’s defence, however, that there are rumours that CLG has had a similar change of tack this week when faced with some of the harsh realities of the Spending Review. The LGC has reported that Eric Pickles made an unsuccessful bid for more Treasury cash support after CLG figures revealed that a combination of spending cuts and changes to grants could result in a 38 per cent reduction in some areas and a 37% increase in others over four years.

Do you know of someone sleeping rough in West Kent? It’s easy to see how the Big Society can work on the fluffier end of the public policy spectrum. But here’s an interesting example of a Big Society-style solution to a difficult problem that, being brutally honest, most of us would rather not get involved in. Sevenoaks District Council is asking local residents to help with its annual count of rough sleepers. The hope is that the intelligence from residents will help the council find and help “even more” vulnerable people.

Quad bikes on standby to grit town centres. Rob’s blogged yesterday about how some councils are using social media to tackle the bad weather. It’s a brilliant idea. This, however, is frankly a lot cooler. Trafford Council has introduced two quad bike gritters, complete with a salt trailer and a plough, to help keep the roads clear. Who said local government was dull? Trafford Council: we salute you.