Running the public sector well

 

            Hammersmith and Fulham Council are proposing their sixth reduction in Council Tax in seven years. They are also freezing parking charges.  Council Tax in the Borough is down 17% since 2007. How many other bills have done that 0ver that time period?

               The Council has not pulled off this great improvement in tax bills by slashing services.  All its schools are rated excellent or outstanding, one of only 9 Education Authorities to be able to say that. Crime is down, and the Council has improved its law and order performance. The streets are kept clean, and the parks are highly rated.

              Nor has it done it by adding to borrowing. Instead, borrowing has been slashed, with £70 m out of the £168 m total debt paid back in recent years.

              So what have they cut?  They cut the interest bill by cutting debt. They have cut the bill for office space by one third, streamlining service management and delivery. They have pooled back offices and management with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, making substantial savings. They have cut  senior management by 50%. They have done more for less, and performed better whilst being economical.

               Central government and less successful Councils should study their methods. They prove that the answer to high levels of public spending and taxation can be better management.  They show that you can make good improvements in services without spending more. What matters is how well you spend all the money that is available. If you can cut the debt you can also cut the costs.

                 They have established central priorities – high quality education, good social service provision for people, a decent environment – and have shown how to deliver at realistic cost. The message is keep it simple. Concentrate on how you do spend the money, rather than concentrating on how to get more money to spend.

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39 Comments

  1. Brian Taylor
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you,thank you,thank you,I intend to ReTweet this put it out on Facebook and I would encourage all others to do the same as we cannot rely on the mainstream Media to put this out it is to much to ask,as they only want news about services that have been cut!

  2. Leslie Singleton
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    We have to get you a wider audience. Even if what you say is only half true on Hammersmith and Fulham (which last time I was there seemed to be working OK) it seems a superb achievement but why don’t we hear more about their success instead of the to-my-mind-exaggerated continuing doom and gloom? On point, is there any reason why you don’t publish more of this sort of article in the Torygraph or even (I shall deny suggesting this!) the Mail?And the next question is why aren’t the people who masterminded this Utopia in Government instead of the inadequates we are landed with for our sins at present? The idea of the Conservatives going against stay-at-home mothers because the likes of the absurd Clegg apparently want to deny the reason for the very existence of women, once again beggars belief. There is no reason for women to be identical to men.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Not aware of its performance with customer service. but it certainly sounds impressive enough.

    Have they had their grant from central government increased over this period, or has the reward been a cut in funding. ?

    Reply: Under Labour their funding went up a bit in line with other Councils, and now under the Coalition it is coming down in real terms in line with others.

    • Acorn
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      The savings have mainly come from combining three London Boroughs; which is what Mr Pickles at DCLG should have been doing across the rest of the “two tier” Counties of England.

      Anyway, Hammersmith and Fulham is the poster child for the return of “feudalism” in the allocation (and dis-allocation) of social housing. It is the true Conservative Party paradigm. Guaranteed to get all Tory voters back from UKIP, regardless of the imagined rage over the EU thing.

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        “The savings have mainly come from combining three London Boroughs”

        That is not true actually, they have only recently combined the three, the first 5 years of council tax reductions were funded entirely by savings from within their own council.

  4. Pete the Bike
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Offer the leaders of the council Dave and Georges jobs. They are clearly far more in touch with Conservative values and the reality of our current situation than your failed PM or chancellor.

  5. Alte Fritz
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    By contrast the (Labour dominated) council where I work has circumvented a referendum on a council tax rise by relying on what is best described as a loophole. This of course goes hand in hand with much hand wringing and holding of an onion under their collective eyes whilst visible services are cut.

    • Edward
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      Alte, this is also one of my pet hates, when Councils cry they are cash strapped and try to prove this by making provocative gestures such as sacking school crossing patrol staff, reducing library hours, stopping grants to Guides and youth groups and turning off street lights.
      Then they pay their senior excecutives several hundred thousands a year, give people six figure sums in golden goodbyes, purchase a new top of the range car for the Mayor and employ temporary staff for months on end and use management consultants at huge daily wage rates.
      One Council near me said recently, “there was not a penny left to be saved in their budget” that is how tightly they were running their organisation, whilst spending as per the examples I have given.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    You are, of course, totally right. But why should councillors listen? They get paid anyway.

  7. David Thompson
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    This is truly excellent performance but I would like to see how the average council tax per resident compares with say Liverpool or Rotherham.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      As I noted below I live in Hammersmith. Following is the answer to your question:

      “Hammersmith & Fulham residents already have the third lowest council tax bills in the country”

      So, depending on what exactly they mean by this, it indicates their rates are low in absolute terms and not just being reduced from a high starting level.

      • Laura Hughes
        Posted January 17, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Indeed. The average council tax per resident will presumably be considerably higher in Hammersmith & Fulham to the examples given and most other areas as there are far more properties in higher council tax bands (4th highest property prices in the country are H&F), but the tax rate at that band will be lower than all but 2 local authorities.

  8. Steve Cox
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    And I’ll bet that their spending on overseas aid is zero, too. Sounds like they have their priorities right, congratulations to them.

    Seriously, the bit that strikes me is this: “They have cut senior management by 50%.” Look at the NHS, the BBC, the MOD, and many other quangos and government departments, and it’s not hard to see that this is probably the solution to their excessive expense and inefficiency. Mr. Cameron should also take note, his cabinet is bloated beyond any sensible limit.

  9. Roy Grainger
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    As a resident in Hammersmith I can confirm all this. Just to add some detail we also have a brand new library, our rubbish collections are twice a week, and two notable local theatres (The Lyric and The Bush) have had contributions from the council towards development work. As far as I can see there has been no reduction in services at all.

    • Laura Hughes
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I’m also a resident in Hammersmith and echo this. The Council are excellent, and they’re also efficient when I’ve had reason to contact them, with cabinet members and ward representatives replying efficiently. They also work closely and effectively with local residents’ associations and the local police, helping make it a great place to live. Long may they keep it up.

  10. Bob
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    “Concentrate on how you do spend the money, rather than concentrating on how to get more money to spend.”

    Exactly Mr Redwood, so why is the coalition government continuing with the tax, borrow and waste scheme?

    The £4 billion p.a. increase in foreign aid could have been postponed until such time that we could afford it without having to mortgage our children’s future.

  11. They Work for Us
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Good news for the council tax payer in those boroughs but it is unlikely to find favour elsewhere.

    The attitude among many local politicians and local authority staff will be that “there is nothing in this for US”. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
    Public SERVICE has been replaced by career path and personal remuneration.

    Most local authorities see themselves as benevolent dispensers of largesse (non accountable in practice with funds provided by someone else) and the need to be associated more with career building imaginative projects rather than concentrating on the more boring core responsibilities like dustbins, roads etc.

    Deleting any staff with climate change or outreach in their job title would be a start as would be the replacement of the term “Town Clerk”, “Clerk of Works” for some of the grander titles used now. Do we need “Chief Executives” , “Cabinet Members” etc.

    How about putting in teams to run inefficient authorities that are not improving, surcharging individuals who have grossly wasted public money and banning them from future office.No chance of this “there is nothing in it for US”.

    On another note (USA comments on the UK and Europe) we should remember that although Americans are often lovely fellows that we must always put our own interests first. Obama would have us negotiating with Argentina over the Falklands to polish his halo with South America. In his interests but not in ours.

    I was dismayed by Douglas Alexander stating a pro EU view and appearing to suggest that politicians should keep us in the EU (because they knew best) even though most voters did not want this. Do as the electors tell you, we want an in/out referendum.

  12. Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    They have so much fat to cut and so many pointless things they do that improvement and efficiencies are easy to make. The problems is few wish to make them. They are over paid by 50% relative to the private sector (when pensions are included) so one third or the wage bill could be saved there if anyone wanted to. But Cameron and the Coalition are tax borrow print and waste people. Lead from the top and others will copy.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Street cleaners are on 50% without the cut and thrust of working for the private sector? Outrageous!

      • Posted January 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        It is indeed outrageous that the state sector is 50% better paid than those labours pay for it and yet it still delivers so little of real value – I agree.

  13. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Where there’s a will there’s a way. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of will in the government. Almost half the debt paid back by this council, whilst the government plans to see its debt doubled in 5 years.

  14. Bazman
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    My local council built themselves a palace and then claimed they could not afford to fund a public toilet in the town. Are local businesses to provide this free of charge? They have also lose on the financial markets after gambling millions of surplus money that should have been spent on services. The question being is why did they not reduce the council tax or spend the money?

  15. Bazman
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Hull City council is another council doing admirable work by voting to unanimously to refuse to give contracts to firms who blacklisted union activists. Natural justice. Blacklisting blacklisters who systematically beached the rights of thousands of construction workers who’s only crime was to raise safety issues or join a union. As profits are the only thing they understand maybe they will then own up to their responsibilities. Not been much said on this site about these blacklists so ram it.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      Hardly a surprising result Bazman. If Hull is anything like Glasgow it’s the unions who have first call on the council. All comrades toghether.
      These so-called “blacklists” were drawn up for a good reason, and not because callous construction bosses wanted to amuse themselves by union bashing. Some of these communist trouble-makers could break companies. Many were notorious, and dreaded as much by the workers as the bosses. The intimidation during the 1970s, for example, was intense at times. There are two sides to this story.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        A committee of MP’s and the courts are going to decide how much of your right wing fantasy of communist trouble makers is true. I would love to hear the companies side. Ho dear. What will you have to say for yourself? Nothing as usual.

  16. Martin Ryder
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I should imagine that the reason for the Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s success is that it is the councillors who run the show, not the council officers who have a vested interest in maximising their budgets and moving some of the money (legally) into their pockets. I bet that the idea of cutting senior staff numbers came from a politician and not a council officer.

    One of the downsides of stopping people taking enforced retirement at 65 is that many senior staff receiving large salaries will not go quietly and will continue to pull in taxpayers’ money for long after their ‘use by date’. Harriet Harman’s initiative will cost the country a lot of money in both local and central government. No surprises there; what will it be like when she becomes the next Prime Minister?

  17. Posted January 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Clearly it’s the right time to shut down LA oversight of education and force all schools to be managed by Gove’s friends then.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      As John notes school standards in Hammersmith have improved overall during the Conservative’s time – people are more concerned about the schools being good than whether they are Gove free schools (of which there are two new ones in Hammersmith which draw their intake from across the social spectrum). I think it is fairly clear that Toby Young’s West London Free School (whose intake is actually skewed slightly to poorer residents) would not have located in Hammersmith if the previous Labour council were in charge, and against the opposition of the Labour MP who we have the misforture to represent us.

      • Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

        John’s post comments on improvements since 2007.

        It seems you’re suggesting that these improvements were created by a school which opened in 2011 and only has students in years 7 & 8 Roy.

        I find that an odd suggestion but I suppose it will rapidly pale into insignificant among the far odder and more dangerous suggestions which project out of Gove’s mouth without ever being sense checked.

        • Roy Grainger
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          Parents choose schools on whether they are good or not, not based on idelogical considerations as you are proposing.

          Actually school standards in Hammersmith have always been skewed high because the Catholic run-along-public-school-lines Oratory is located in the borough and has very high standards. Not the sort of place the leaders of the Labour and Liberal parties would send their children to … oh … wait a minute …..

          Reply: The point is, all the Borough schools achieve well, not just selected ones.

          • Posted January 12, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

            “Parents choose schools on whether they are good or not, not based on idelogical considerations as you are proposing.”

            For most parents the main consideration in where to send their kids to primary schools is where their friends are sending their children.

            Thanks for your reply John – that’s precisely the identifying factor of a good education system and it’s something that’s very difficult to achieve.

  18. peter davies
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Its a good example of what can be done but one factor that springs to mind is that for the example you give there is presumably a lot of wealth. My guess is that the poorer boroughs have higher levels of people that depend of services, i.e housing benefit, fostering (as long as you don’t support UKIP) and whatever else they expect the authority to do for them.

    Having said that even with this the principle of rationalising real estate and management, merging services where possible and outsourcing which they should all be trying to do to cut down their payroll/pension bills and make things more efficient are something all councils should do as a matter of course – sadly its not in the nature of the beast – councils tend to attract a certain type of individual more concerned with their narrow self interest rather than what they should be doing.

  19. uanime5
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Hey John why don’t you post the actual reasons why Hammersmith and Fulham Council is able to cut Council tax, rather than right wing delusions.

    For example they don’t provide housing to homeless pregnant women:
    http://www.lgo.org.uk/news/2010/jan/failure-deal-properly-homeless-pregnant-woman

    Or the Sure Start courses that provide childcare:
    http://labourlist.org/2011/11/45-sure-start-cuts-at-flagship-tory-council/

    Or social housing to households earning over £40,200 per year (I believe you said this was a low amount for London properties):
    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/hammersmith-and-fulham-council-denies-social-housing-to-those-earning-over-40200-8194040.html

    It’s pretty easy to make tax cuts when you cut all the services you’re meant to provide to the poor and needy but I guess that always been the Conservatives’ way.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      uanime5

      I do not know the specifics of the pregnant woman case.

      But ask yourself why all of a sudden (a) lady was was pregant and homeless.

      Does the father of her unborn child live in a house, have his own accomodation, or is he also looking for somewhere to live.

      Does th(e) lady not have parents who could help ?

      Does the soon to be father not have parents who could help?

      I am all for helping those in dire need, but was this really one of those cases.

      We all know how you can become pregnant, and whilst contraception is not 100% guaranteed, it usually has a good record if practised properly.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      Might as well eat this one too.
      Easy to reduce costs if you do not have to spend anything.
      http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-2008094/A-136m-apartment-council-tax-national-average.html
      They forgot mention that many of the mega wealthy just don’t pay council tax due to tax scams and some simply just do not pay and enforcement is not carried out due to their security arrangements in the flats in question.

    • Edward
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Unamime5
      I take it that you disagree with the 50% cut in senior management at H and F council or are you in favour of larger numbers of highly paid HQ staff ?
      Many other efficiencies have been made to save money so that front line services can be maintained.
      Different to Labour councils near me, who deliberately cut services to the poor and needy to try to blame Central Govt, whilst loading their Town halls with over paid bureaucrats.

  20. Jon
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I think underlying this is that the senior managers reduced management costs by 50% and moved to cheaper accommodation in Hammersmith & Fulham. The difference is in the senior management and I think that is where the difficulty is for the other councils.

  21. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    What have they got that Bury hasn’t? Let the council share their formula.

  22. Matt
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s easier to make savings when you start from a position of excess. LB h&f spent £1,667 per head of population in 2011/12. Wokingham spent £742

    Some way for H&F to go before they achieve Wokingham’s level of efficiency.

    Reply: I would be happy to publish figures concerning Wokingham’s success with costs and Council Tax if you would like to send them to me.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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