The spending review cuts Whitehall's annual support for local councils by 26% in real inflation adjusted terms. And that's just the headline shown in the report - once account is taken of the new social care responsibilities they've picked up, the like-for-like funding cut is almost certainly even bigger. The cost of their loan funding has also been increased.
So it should surprise nobody if councils up and down Britain start screaming foul.
But as the Taxpayers Alliance has consistently pointed out, in most councils there is a significant margin of waste. And the best councils have already shown how better management can extract huge savings without undermining service standards.
At a recent TPA seminar (reported by the BBC here), the leaders of three flagship councils highlighted some key steps councils can take to drive increased efficiency. They include:
- Be more transparent - expose all spending to full scrutiny
- Don't compromise on quality - better to cut functions than accept second-rate services
- Outsource ruthlessly
- Pinch ideas from other councils
- Don't run arts centres - aka "stick to the knitting"
In these tough fiscal times, taxpayers everywhere should expect their local councils to learn from the best. And with the flexibility they have now been given over 80 previously ringfenced grants, councils should find it much easier to do what makes most sense locally, rather than what has been dictated from Whitehall.
What would not be acceptable would be councils failing to make these savings and instead racking up Council Tax.