The TaxPayers’ Alliance today publishes an innovative guide for local authorities, showing them how to cut waste, save money, reduce bureaucracy and ultimately cut taxes. Produced by Councillor Harry Phibbs, 201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government,contains advice on how council chiefs can make big savings in areas such as procurement and shared services. It also suggests more subtle changes - such as placing word limits on council documents and running competitions to find savings - that can save time and establish a culture of efficiency often lacking in too many town halls.
The Government will shortly announce the local government settlement - containing the size of the grants councils receive from central government. At the same time that families are dealing with the competing pressures of rising prices and stagnant wages, local authorities shouldn't add to that burden with Council Tax hikes. Instead, local politicians should look to cut out wasteful spending and consider removing non-essential services.
Highlights of how councils can save money:
- Share services with neighbouring councils and other public sector bodies. "Joined up" government between the NHS and councils’ adult social care departments is particularly important. (Numbers 1 and 2)
- Freeze recruitment and ensure that any new hires are approved by a Vacancy Management Panel chaired by the council leader. (Numbers 5 and 96)
- Councils should consider whether it makes sense for a county council and its constituent districts to form a unitary authority. Councillors in Wiltshire have said this has saved a fortune through efficiency savings. (Number 115)
- Combine the post of Finance Director and Chief Executive. (Number 71)
- Offer an interactive smartphone application which allows residents to access services and report issues such as a missed bin collection or broken street lights. It costs £1.50 less to process a smartphone enquiry compared to telephone contacts.(Number 183)
- Investigate savings through bulk purchasing rather than using endless different suppliers at various prices for the same product. (Number 186)
- Publish corporate credit card use online, in real time and allow armchair auditors help cut out wasteful and frivolous spending. (Number 134)
- Don't inflate the cost of pay-offs by including gagging clauses. (Number 142)
- End automatic pay rises for staff. (Number 176)
Other notable suggestions include:
- Where appropriate, use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting. (Number 70)
- Set maximum word limits on the length of reports submitted by officers. Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending. (Number 98)
- Stop providing free meals for councillors. (Number 154)
- Provide council tenants with rewards for carrying out their own repairs. (Number 180)
- Scrap clothing allowances for mayors, their spouses or any other staff. (Number 182)
Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"Far too often we hear unimaginative councillors insisting that they have no choice but to raise Council Tax and increase the burden on already hard-pressed families. But there are literally hundreds of ways in which local authorities can save money before even thinking about increasing the Council Tax.
"201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government should be essential reading for anyone in local government and indeed anyone interested in holding to account their local representatives. In future, any civic leader claiming that raising the Council Tax is their only option had better be able to prove that they have implemented or at least considered implementing every single idea we are putting before them today. If not, they won't be able to look their residents in the eye and insist that they have exhausted the possibilities for saving money."