Total place – trick or treat?

In the dying days of the last government there was a flickering of interest in the public sector delivering more for less. Ministers started asking to know how much public money in total was spent in each place. They discovered it was often more than they realised, with great overlap between the spending of different Agencies, departments and Councils.

Some Ministers just wanted the higher figures to be able to make claims over how much they were offering. Others saw that there was scope to cut out the overlap and deliver more for less.

I have just received a glossy brochure from the Local Government Group celebrating “Total Place”. Within its 36 sheets it includes the following statement from the “Chair of the Total Place High level Officials group”:

“The time has come to dramatically reduce the number of …targets, indicators,inspection arrangements and ring fenced budgets….
We have too many vulnerable people, households and communities receiving services from countless agencies which fail to meet their needs at great cost to the public purse….
We spend £220billion on purchasing goods and materials across the public sector but we sitll have no convincing purchasing strategy for common goods….”

This commonsense approach is not reflected throughout the brochure. In a Section entitled “regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerhsips” we are told:

“In local government, we have been familiar for some time with the need to develop a holistic, customer focussed services (sic) through partnership. In some ways Total Place is not new, but the renewed momentum behind the breadth of our focus on transforming services for residents and codesigning with Whitehall certainly gives me cause for optimism”.

The brochure ends with a Next Step that sounds very different from the tone of the “Chair’s” opening statement:

” We propose a new improvement framework with streamlined departmental and inspection stuctures alongside stringent local self-regulation. This would include peer reviews at least every three years”

So is Total Place trick or treat? Would it cut costs and concentrate the money on the people and problems that matter, or will it spawn its own all new language and bureaucracy?


  1. Mik eStallard
    July 29, 2010

    There are a lot of very clever very frightened people out there at the moment. This gimmick stinks. Even out here in Wisbech we have a lot of such people. They frighten vulnerable women who are already full of fear that their "pots" have dried up. They are quite capable of getting the "wrong people" "out of post". Worst of all, they can do Newspeak.

  2. Mick Anderson
    July 29, 2010

    If it isn't obvious that a tax-payer funded organisation is necessary from the name, it should be abolished.

    "Total Place" falls squarely within this definition.

  3. Derek Duncan
    July 29, 2010

    That's the problem with Chairs: they don't speak like human beings.

    1. Frank
      July 30, 2010

      Especially if the chair tables a motion.

  4. Acorn
    July 29, 2010

    I have great hopes for Mr Pickles at DCLG; but, I do hope he is not bamboozled by the likes of the following on local government restructuring. To be frank, I struggled; had sleepless nights, with whether it is better to use the "cross-sectional multivariate regression model"; or, the "longitudinal panel regression model". Fortunately, the results show that all forms of local authorities are exactly the same monolithic local operating units of central government. I suggest the authors (PWC) go back and read the ONS Geography web-site; particularly its bits on "travel to work areas". Hence, I nominate this government report as the most useless of 2010.

    As DCLG spends around £25 billion a year; nearly half on Housing; I am expecting Mr Pickles and his DCLG to make themselves redundant and replaced by Unitary Councils, by 2015.

    1. Acorn
      July 29, 2010

      Sorry, finger trouble, here is link:-

  5. English Pensioner
    July 29, 2010

    The Tories talk of giving more power to local groups. Perhaps it should turn over all such tasks (and the money) to the parish councils, who are are the real local representatives and know what is going on.
    The parish councils are run by local people, are familiar with the local problems and could deal with then using local people who are on the spot; they just need the money.
    But they need to be given the jobs and the responsibilities, not just have them delegated by someone who will now have someone else to blame!.

  6. Alan Jutson
    July 29, 2010

    Never heard of them !.

    What do they actually do ?.

    If nothing productive, then why should our taxpayer money go to support this organisation.

  7. @David_Wickes
    July 29, 2010

    Shall we turn at this point to the Gospel according to Yes, Minister, wherein Jim Hacker's attempt to cut costs in bureaucracy is somewhat hampered by Sir Humphrey's employment of a thousand or so bureaucrats to find the best ways to cut costs in bureaucracy?

    Sometimes I fear that the problem is like something from quantum physics: we may be less bureaucratic or we may know how bureaucratic we are, but we cannot know that we are less bureaucratic. But hopefully this is just the double bind that public bureaucracies put us all in, where in reality I don't need someone to prove that they're spending less, I just want them to spend less.

    And as for Total Place – another quango with another glossy brochure, seeking to justify its existence. A radical shift of resources and responsibilities down to locally elected politicians, directly accountable to those who both use and pay for their services (whether directly or through taxation) – that might be a better start than fighting quangos with quangos.

  8. L G Mole
    July 30, 2010

    Total Place, Total ****. Complete as appropriate.

  9. christina sarginson
    July 30, 2010

    You have a problem here people will have to speak to each other, coopertive and work together, not really sure what you are expecting of all the changes that are taking place at the moment. I just feel it is too much too soon.

  10. Yarnesfromhorsham
    July 30, 2010

    Trick – simples

  11. Javelin
    August 1, 2010

    The Times today talks about "blunderbuss" cuts.

    I would to say in words as well as actions the reduction in spending should be a diet not amputation. It should be about becoming fitter nit making cuts. It should be about cutting fat all over the body not hacking limbs off.

    The only chance George Osborne has is if he treats this as a change to a healthier life style and not major surgery. He must focus of rooting out wasteful managers and management.

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