Wasteful spending during Council efficiency drive

December 07, 2011 2:00 PM

Like many councils, Sheffield City Council recently embarked upon a £57 million cost-cutting exercise in response to a fall in the central government grant. After council tax bills have nearly doubled across the country in the last decade there is no way taxpayers should pick up the bill.

Apparently unaware of the irony, the council has spent £21,000 sending 230,000 leaflets to residents asking them for ideas how to save money, living up to Sir Humphey’s mantra that it's more expensive to do them cheaply.

While it is obviously good for a council to talk to voters about a necessary reduction in funding and how to save money, it should be done when it can have a meaningful impact on all aspects of spending rather than at the tail end of the discussions.

The consultation is open until January 6th leaving the Council just three months to prepare and adopt a budget to take effect in April 2012. The opposition Lib Dem leader, Shaffaq Mohammed, claims that decisions must have already been made about next year’s budget, “We are now almost at the door of the final closure of the budget process as far as I'm concerned.”

If this is just a smokescreen for councillors to use to defend their own plans when the outcome is already decided, it is a very cynical waste of money.

Julie Dore, the Labour-run council’s leader, claimed that it cost just 9p to produce each leaflet and this represented “value for money.” But the question isn’t whether they have bought the leaflets at a reasonable price but whether or not the project was worthwhile in the first place, whether it was a genuine attempt to engage with the public or just a presentational gimmick.  Taxpayers will suspect it was the latter.Like many councils, Sheffield City Council recently embarked upon a £57 million cost-cutting exercise in response to a fall in the central government grant. After council tax bills have nearly doubled across the country in the last decade there is no way taxpayers should pick up the bill.

Apparently unaware of the irony, the council has spent £21,000 sending 230,000 leaflets to residents asking them for ideas how to save money, living up to Sir Humphey’s mantra that it's more expensive to do them cheaply.

While it is obviously good for a council to talk to voters about a necessary reduction in funding and how to save money, it should be done when it can have a meaningful impact on all aspects of spending rather than at the tail end of the discussions.

The consultation is open until January 6th leaving the Council just three months to prepare and adopt a budget to take effect in April 2012. The opposition Lib Dem leader, Shaffaq Mohammed, claims that decisions must have already been made about next year’s budget, “We are now almost at the door of the final closure of the budget process as far as I'm concerned.”

If this is just a smokescreen for councillors to use to defend their own plans when the outcome is already decided, it is a very cynical waste of money.

Julie Dore, the Labour-run council’s leader, claimed that it cost just 9p to produce each leaflet and this represented “value for money.” But the question isn’t whether they have bought the leaflets at a reasonable price but whether or not the project was worthwhile in the first place, whether it was a genuine attempt to engage with the public or just a presentational gimmick.  Taxpayers will suspect it was the latter.

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