Union predicts an apocalypse: a tad over the top?

May 06, 2011 2:33 PM

“Dead bodies could start piling up, strip clubs could be set up on any street corner and vulnerable children could be left without care”.

What does this chilling sequence of words describe? The strap-line of a bad action movie, perhaps? No. This is the scenario envisaged by Unison if the Government goes ahead with proposals to remove a series of statutory duties on councils.

[caption id="attachment_34400" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Coming soon to a street corner near you?"][/caption]

Back in March I blogged on DCLG’s planned review of the hundreds of statutory duties placed on local government. Many of them exist as a result of centuries old Acts of Parliament and are no longer really necessary. Many of the newer ones are equally unnecessary. Conforming to them inevitably costs councils and thus taxpayers millions of pounds each year. Removing some of them could help reduce unnecessary burdens on local authorities and enable them to decide for themselves what they regard as necessary areas of spending.  As this article on Public Service explains, DCLG has invited all local authorities “to suggest which are unnecessary burdens that could be repealed.” It will help unlock big areas of spending in which councillors and council staff could root out waste before cutting back on frontline services.

A good example is our report on Unnecessary Jobs. We looked at Diversity and Climate Change Officers. They are employed to carry out tasks that councils have to perform because of central legislation. Of course, responses to these requirements varied wildly, but essentially these posts were created mainly because councils thought they had to create them.

But the response from the unions, to what is an important debate, is one that beggars belief. Predictions of an apocalypse help no-one and in the long-term could actually harm their members interests, as councils will have less freedom to try and find genuine efficiencies and waste to cut.

The proposals could bring long overdue changes to local government so it’s disappointing that Unison have reacted so mindlessly to them.

**Update**

Even the LGA agree with us:

LGA chair Baroness Margaret Eaton said: ‘The elimination of statutory guidance notes and a root-and-branch prune of unnecessary duties would not only ease the costly red-tape burden being placed on local authorities, it would help government departments avoid unnecessary policy work, saving them up to £1.5bn each year.’

Eaton added:

‘The government has an opportunity to completely revise the existing culture of excessive bureaucratic oversight. We are not seeking to abolish the statutory duty to provide core services and protect the vulnerable. However, some of the duties currently placed on town halls are perverse, unnecessary and run contrary to localism. Bossy guidance telling councils how to collect rent, costly duplication in the collection and reporting of data, and confusing and contradictory policy guidance increase the administrative burden and make it harder for councils to deliver the services people want in the way they want them.’


It is encouraging that the LGA are taking a common-sense approach to this. It is a great pity the unions have not done the same!
“Dead bodies could start piling up, strip clubs could be set up on any street corner and vulnerable children could be left without care”.

What does this chilling sequence of words describe? The strap-line of a bad action movie, perhaps? No. This is the scenario envisaged by Unison if the Government goes ahead with proposals to remove a series of statutory duties on councils.

[caption id="attachment_34400" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Coming soon to a street corner near you?"][/caption]

Back in March I blogged on DCLG’s planned review of the hundreds of statutory duties placed on local government. Many of them exist as a result of centuries old Acts of Parliament and are no longer really necessary. Many of the newer ones are equally unnecessary. Conforming to them inevitably costs councils and thus taxpayers millions of pounds each year. Removing some of them could help reduce unnecessary burdens on local authorities and enable them to decide for themselves what they regard as necessary areas of spending.  As this article on Public Service explains, DCLG has invited all local authorities “to suggest which are unnecessary burdens that could be repealed.” It will help unlock big areas of spending in which councillors and council staff could root out waste before cutting back on frontline services.

A good example is our report on Unnecessary Jobs. We looked at Diversity and Climate Change Officers. They are employed to carry out tasks that councils have to perform because of central legislation. Of course, responses to these requirements varied wildly, but essentially these posts were created mainly because councils thought they had to create them.

But the response from the unions, to what is an important debate, is one that beggars belief. Predictions of an apocalypse help no-one and in the long-term could actually harm their members interests, as councils will have less freedom to try and find genuine efficiencies and waste to cut.

The proposals could bring long overdue changes to local government so it’s disappointing that Unison have reacted so mindlessly to them.

**Update**

Even the LGA agree with us:

LGA chair Baroness Margaret Eaton said: ‘The elimination of statutory guidance notes and a root-and-branch prune of unnecessary duties would not only ease the costly red-tape burden being placed on local authorities, it would help government departments avoid unnecessary policy work, saving them up to £1.5bn each year.’

Eaton added:

‘The government has an opportunity to completely revise the existing culture of excessive bureaucratic oversight. We are not seeking to abolish the statutory duty to provide core services and protect the vulnerable. However, some of the duties currently placed on town halls are perverse, unnecessary and run contrary to localism. Bossy guidance telling councils how to collect rent, costly duplication in the collection and reporting of data, and confusing and contradictory policy guidance increase the administrative burden and make it harder for councils to deliver the services people want in the way they want them.’


It is encouraging that the LGA are taking a common-sense approach to this. It is a great pity the unions have not done the same!

Latest Blogs: