Conservative Councils now need to perform. People want lower Council taxes, concentrating what money is spent on the delivery of the main services. They would be happy to see advertising, spin doctoring,glossy brochure producing, networking, bogus consultation making budgets slashed.
The Conservative party has strengthened its position as the main party of local government. All those Councillors who have been elected and re-elected, need to remember their promises and make sure they deliver better service at lower cost. Whilst the national mood played a part in securing their election, May 1st results showed that local circumstances can still be important in deciding who wins and who loses.
The most important pledge Conservative candidates made in most parts of the country was the pledge to keep the Council Tax down. So in those budget meetings for next year when officers tell them they need a large hike in the Council Tax for a â€œstandstillâ€ budget, Councillors should explain that this simply is neither true nor realistic.
On taking office this May, Council Groups should impose staff freezes on administrative staff, and start to manage the numbers down. They should gain control over any decision to appoint external consultants, making sure when there are staff in the Council office who should and could do the job that they do it. They should review all the new initiatives and projects with an eye to suitability and cost.
Many Conservative candidates promised to keep the weekly bin collection. Not only should they insist on this, but they should also make sure there is proper quality management, to prevent the collecting companies littering the verges and leaving material in the bottom of bins.
Many Conservative Councils want to ease some of the traffic and parking problems locally. They should review traffic light phasing and junction design, to improve smooth flowing of traffic and safety. They should price parking charges sensibly, ensure sensitive enforcement of restrictions, and review how to provide enough parking without disrupting main carriageways and junctions.
Conservative Councils wish to contribute to a safer area. They can best do this by working with and through the local police, helping define local priorities for the available police man power. There may be no advantage in setting up a parallel force of wardens and assistants who do not have proper police powers.
It is not the job of a Conservative Council to implement every suggestion and piece of advice coming from the government. Of course Conservative Councils must comply with the law, but they should and can have a distinctive view of how to run transport, education and other crucial services in their area. I have confirmation from a previous Labour Local Government Minister that much of what comes from government is advisory, not mandatory.
The public voted for a change on May 1st. They want lower taxes, less interference in their daily lives, easier journeys to work and school, and better choice of good schools. They will expect their newly elected Conservative Councils to do what they can at local level to ease the burden imposed from above. So I say to all our Councillors be bold â€“ donâ€™t do as the government says, do as the electorate wants.
PS Please see Download on how to run a Conservative Council if you would like to read more about this – under Downloads near the top right of this site.