Last week the new Tory-Lib Dem coalition at Wolverhampton City Council announced that they were going to have to borrow £700m in order to rectify the financial mess inherited from the former Labour ruling group, and as a consequence, Wolverhampton residents were told to expect a council tax hike of around 4.9% in spite of previous promises to keep any rises to a minimum.
Now, in their first move to cut-back on spending (an admirable attempt to avoid such increases) the new Tory-Lib Dem group have unveiled some pretty sensible plans to set up an internal panel to block all staff recruitment that isn’t absolutely necessary. According to the Express & Star the panel will meet on a regular basis to assess whether new vacancies arising should be filled or axed.
How effective this panel will be, and how much money it will save the council is yet to be determined, but it is certainly heartening to see a council trying to cut-back on unnecessary spending rather then resolving to lean more heavily on local taxpayers in order to make up the shortfall.
For years now we’ve seen local authorities growing their bureaucratic armies, recruiting legions of new officials with job titles that simply didn’t exist ten years ago. Once these non-job style positions have been invented and hired for they are immediately entrenched within the local government system, leaching ever increasing salaries from the public purse. They self-preserve by keeping busy with assorted new initiatives of varying merit, and no-one even thinks to review their viability.
It may well be the “enormous debts” accrued by the previous administration of Wolverhampton City Council that have prompted its new rulers to this type of action, but that doesn’t mean that this method of reviewing job vacancies to judge their value to the taxpayer should only be implemented as part of some sort of crisis model. On the contrary, assessing recruitment in order to root out any unnecessary expenditure should be standard practice, financial catastrophe or not.
It’s good to see a West Midlands council working practically to recover money that is being haemorrhaged internally. Let’s hope it won’t take the others too long to follow-suit.