Councils spend too much

In the three years to 2019 Councils spent £ 6.6 bn on buying up commercial property. I was against this at the time. Property had risen in value and the private sector was keen to offload shops and retail centres, seeing the rise of on line retail. The Councils were able to borrow cheaply thanks to the low interest rate regime, and expected rental income to exceed their costs.

Unfortunately for them covid lockdowns and new drives to on line shopping and working from home accelerated the negative trends for many of the shops and offices they bought. The collapse of many  commercial property values will have hit valuations of Council owned property.

The Councils who had all this money to buy these assets often now claim to be short of cash. Maybe they should sell these assets to raise money where the  values are still sensible. Maybe they should cut their losses when they can where they made bad investments as going  forward they will be paying  more interest on borrowings than when they first bought. They should stop adding to these portfolios. Wokingham taxpayers should not be made  to buy a solar farm. The Council  is not skilled in such an area and claims to be short of money. The risk is not acceptable for a public body.

Many Councils have redundant or surplus assets beyond these speculative  portfolios some bought. They should be selling. Many Councils are spending far too much on consultants on top of the salaries of officers meant to be qualified to undertake many of the specialist tasks. Many are still annoying many drivers with expensive schemes to delay the vans and cars more. Save the money and spare us the aggro.

What is the most annoying waste of money from your local Council? How many extra admin staff have they taken on in recent years?


  1. Mark B
    November 2, 2023

    Good morning.

    What is the most annoying ?

    Spending money on things that have nothing to do with maintaining a public service and following Central Government dictates and policies (eg Nut Zero and all the Woke b*****s) in order to get a some Central Government cash.

    If certain members of society want to have a day, week and / or month dedicated to them, let them pay for it.

    1. Peter
      November 2, 2023

      The big danger is councils that go bust – such as Croydon – after dabbling in property for no good reason.

      They then expect central government to bail them out. No council officials are held to account for the losses though.

      Property developers (as head of the council in one case) is the worst waste in my borough. The Conservative council leader employed his own son – so nepotism too. Every year there was an expensive jolly to the South of France on the excuse of property conferences.

      When Liberal Democrat’s came to power they just built bigger, on proposals they had criticised under the previous council. Rebuilding a modern swimming pool that was badly designed in the first place and not properly maintained was another folly.

    2. Hope
      November 2, 2023

      Like NHS, too many alleged managers and tiers of bean counters. Concentrate on front line delivery. No diversity wokesters. Councils had fingers burnt in 2008/9 investing money in foreign banks.

      Question: they are controlled by your Secretary of State!! Why have councils not been targeted for Tory reform? Stop pretending they are separate and not under your govt control to pass the blame. Stop passing councils your problems ie adult social care, mass immigration net stupid, getting rid of cars etc.

    3. Sir Joe Soap
      November 2, 2023

      This is an obvious and correct answer. I suspect most comments will allude to councils being directed only to provide services, and nothing more. Yet the government persists in allowing councils to spend money on capital projects and ephemeral indulgences like LTNs and other minority interests. Frankly it’s yet another problem to be laid directly at the door of you and your party in government. Government could have directed differently, but hasn’t bothered.

    4. Lifelogic
      November 2, 2023

      Most annoying is when the spend loads of tax payers money doing positive harm such as:-

      The whole of Net Zero agenda, the road blocking, the bus lanes that halve road capacity, the harassing of landlords, car driver muggings, phasing traffic lights to stop traffic flows, the woke/diversity lunacy, propaganda, lies and political adverts (The Mayor of London and London Transport does this a lot). Your taxes are used to try to brain wash you into voting for them net time.

      1. Hope
        November 2, 2023

        We voted not to have mayors or police commissioners, JR’s party and govt imposed them against the nation wish and no mandate for having them! Cameron stated no one in the public sector would earn more than the PM. Another failure,Not implemented. JR wants to moan about the costs!!

  2. Lynn Atkinson
    November 2, 2023

    In addition to buying the (rubbish) shops and offices that the private sector chose to sell when they could, because they would not be able to compete against online retail etc. these councils are also responsible for the business rates of all their empty properties. The state sector should be banned from competing in the marketplace altogether.
    The state sector should be banned from owning any property it does itself not occupy – including farms. Monmouthshire County Council was, and perhaps still is the biggest landowner in the County. At one meeting a Council Officer said angrily that ‘because there will be no farmers does not mean there will be no farms’.
    In fact the locus of council spending should be tightly controlled by Government. No council offices in Brussels, no spending, in fact, that is not directly related to providing services.

    1. jerry
      November 2, 2023

      @Lynn Atkinson; Well if these councils had not bought the properties what would have been the outcome, probably derelict buildings with their roofs removed, or hoarding were buildings once to stood, with people complaining about swaths of our towns and cities going to ruin.

      “these councils are also responsible for the business rates of all their empty properties”

      A tax imposed by central government, rules set by central government, that fund central government spending. One has to ask were the real waste, excessive spending, is if central government demands UBR has to be paid on empty buildings.

      “The state sector should be banned from owning any property it does itself not occupy”

      No one can force the private sector to take on property they clearly do not want, the state sector often ends up being owner of last resort, if the property is not to be lost.

    2. Kayla Tomlinson
      November 2, 2023

      Everything annoys me about Wokingham Borough Council. A completely profligate group.

  3. Lifelogic
    November 2, 2023

    “Councils spend too much” and most of it is misdirected or wasted.

    Much wasted on property and other speculation too and there is a lot of vested interests & blatant corruption too.

  4. iain gill
    November 2, 2023

    If we are going to talk about financial viability, lets have a chat about housing associations?

    Housing associations, another arms length public body, designed to insulate the political class from mess ups.

    A lot of housing associations have massive “book value” of housing on their books, which is actually sink housing, in sink areas, with sink schools, sink healthcare, and no realistic jobs market within travelling distance for the volume of people housed there. Nobody but nobody would choose to live in these places if they had any real buying power in their relationship with housing. Left to individuals they would gradually move away, and optimise their housing spend versus distance to potential jobs, decent schools, relatives, and so on naturally and without state allocation & rationing. The sink housing is only viable because of the state paying over inflated rents for it in benefits payments, the true market value rent on many sink estates is roughly equal to zero.

    It is madness the way social housing works, trapping people in jobless wastelands, while paying massive over inflated rents. The whole state allocation & rationing approach does not work.

    Plus the way social housing acts to discourage large decent reputable companies entering the private rental market at scale. Social housing with its planning and subsidy perks can randomly undercut any private rental landlords. Random movements of school & healthcare catchment areas is another risk factor private landlords have no control over. So its far too risky for large decent landlords to enter the market. So we are trapped with substandard social landlords, with unfair advantages against any potential competition, trapping people in areas they simply would not live if left to individual choice.

    If we are to have social housing, then there needs to be incentives for the housing associations to build new housing in areas where modern jobs market is expanding and healthy, and shut down housing in areas where there are no jobs. That natural cycle needs to happen, or we are trapping people in poverty and state reliance.

    A lot of housing associations are bankrupt in reality, as the housing values that underlies their finances is sink housing with no value, which is only kept going by state benefits and subsidy.

    1. a-tracy
      November 4, 2023

      Iain, I absolutely agree. You can always tell which social houses were bought and cared for and which ones are left with the HA, overgrown unkempt gardens a lot of the time, rubbish in the front gardens, why give people gardens if they’d be better in a flat, there should be an obligation on tenants given a garden to look after it or lose it. I won’t accept the poverty excuse either, my Nan lived in poverty (not this modern day version of it with a car and smartphone the one where she walked 2 miles to pick up a lift to work to clean a hospital) she had a second hand push along mower and took pride in her garden front and back, keeping a veg patch in the back to grow root vegetables.

      Around 1500 homes sold since the HA took over, all that money spent on staff pension and perks no replacement houses, even if they only sold them for £10,000 each there should have been rebuilding. 1/7th of the housing stock sold I bet there is not 1.7th less spending on the payroll and vehicles and top staff wages they’re always topping up the old council staff pension pots half a million here and there.

      They’ve rebuilt nothing, they’ve let shops they were gifted on land they were gifted go to the dogs. The worst properties and roads in the area are theirs. Mould all over the paint at the front of homes, the neighbours don’t have mould if they bought them out and did a proper paint job on them, I feel sorry for them. One guy has been allowed to build a scrapyard in his very large garden, totally not fair on all his neighbours. Our town gets the majority of social housing projects 65% it just isn’t fair or right, social housing should be spread around evenly with no one town with more than 15 – 20%.

      Who gets to choose the tenants too? This thing where children can’t apply for one and get left on housing lists renting expensive private homes, for a decade, relationships breaking up because of it as often the Mum is better off with the State as Dad paying the mortgage and university training courses, and new people come in and are given the lowest cost rental homes as priority it’s grossly unfair and we end up with a higher housing benefits bill because we’re paying the private rental costs.

  5. Lifelogic
    November 2, 2023

    The Covid Inquiry is clearly a vastly expensive sick joke and a total disgrace to this government and the legal profession. A good piece by Lord Frost and a discussion on the Planet Normal Podcast today. They are clearly biased and are not even addressing the right questions.

    1. James H
      November 2, 2023

      (Sorry to continue off topic but I’ll be brief.)

      The COVID enquiry is embarrassingly awful and is set to waste another £250,000,000 of taxpayer money. No wonder the UK’s economic performance is so bad compared to say Switzerland’s; it throws away £100 bn here, £200 bn there, £0.3 bn over there, etc, etc.

      Independent voices like those of Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta or Karol Sikora are being cast aside, just as they were 2020 onwards. If these experts were listened to, and both sides presenting medical data were equally toughly cross-examined, many of the submissions to the enquiry from the government’s ‘tame’ experts would be shown up as scientific fraud.

      Does Baroness Hallett realise that she was hired not to seek the truth but to sweep a pile of filth under a very thick heavy carpet? Maybe the government hopes it will stay there for 75 years, the length of time for which Pfizer wanted to bury its confidential papers. (Independent judges ensured otherwise.)

      1. jerry
        November 3, 2023

        @James H; “[a] scientific fraud.”

        …and your expert qualifications are, exactly, to make such a “statement of fact”?

        “she was hired not to seek the truth but to sweep a pile of filth under a very thick heavy carpet?”

        Reading Baroness Hallett’s bio, if that is what the government wanted done I suspect they hired the wrong person, by a country mile!

    2. jerry
      November 2, 2023

      @LL;’ “They are clearly biased and are not even addressing the right questions.”

      Oh do stop bleating, have you actually bothered to watch the cross examinations of witnesses (nor is evidence limited to the oral sessions), download the evidence, and given that the Covid Inquiry is only at the second evidence gathering ‘module’, out of at least six, all you’re doing is showing up your own bias, or perhaps just total lack of understanding (trying to remain polite).

      What questions do you want asked, did you send a submission, if not you might still have time…

  6. DOM
    November 2, 2023

    Councils similar to central government are now infected with ideologues whose primary function is not fiscal prudence and utility but the implementation and embedding of a woke cancer focusing on race, gender, sexuality, the environment and other weaponised issues of the day.

    If Parliament can ban criticism of religion and outlawing speech they can pass laws to ban woke and impose criminal sentences on local councillors who deliberately bankrupt councils for political gain (malfeasance) and ‘line their own pockets’ and the pockets of family members especially under Labour and SNP.

    These low-lifes behave like this because they now they can. The Tory government has given the green-light to a Socialist political culture of unlimited spending without any sense of control or personal responsibility.

    Bankruptcy for the UK cannot be too far away

    And these grifters bamboozle the plebs with their crappy Oxbridge sensibilities…

    we are being played like lemmings

  7. Mickey Taking
    November 2, 2023

    Why to Cabinets and Local Authorities dip fingers into areas where they have no skills?
    Even with so-called expert advice (OBR, Treasury, Banks) terrible mistakes get taken.
    They should stick with providing governance where the electorate expects it, not aren’t we clever whims.

    1. Mickey Taking
      November 2, 2023

      not published – what is the problem?

  8. Michelle
    November 2, 2023

    Consultants, another non entity (obviously not in all cases) on big bucks.
    If private firms wish to waste money to be told the bleeding obvious that often their own staff can point out (a personal experience in the work place) well that’s their affair.
    However, as Sir John rightly points out, why are we paying for them when employed by councils, who are already paying a salary to someone they’ve employed for their knowledge.
    Perhaps ‘knowledge’ is a key word. Too many people being employed purely because they’ve got a paper qualification and now an identity qualification, but little knowledge in real terms.
    Someone then has to foot the bill to make up for the lack of knowledge.

  9. Everhopeful
    November 2, 2023

    Our horrible council spent some £2m on LED street lighting.
    And that was well before all the nonsense really began…so presumable the lights may well be due for renewal before we return to a life in caves.
    The lights are over bright and very disturbing if there is a chink in the curtains.
    Got a very nasty reply when I pointed out the possible health problems caused by the light ( too blue if I recall).

    1. Everhopeful
      November 2, 2023


  10. Sharon
    November 2, 2023

    My Greater London council bought up some land to build a secondary school, discovered the land was too small, so had to build it two storeys. Even then there wasn’t enough capacity, so had to limit the student intake!

    Over half a million for a long bus stop. But the bus stop doesn’t even shelter the waiting passengers! It’s just a very, very high roof!

  11. Sea_Warrior
    November 2, 2023

    I suspect that my council’s biggest ‘waste’ is accommodating the ‘homeless’. I would like to see councils freed from this obligation. Why? Because refugees, if they have been let in by central government, should then be a charge on Whitehall’s purse – not on the councils’. And, in any case, two people on the ‘national living wage’ – and there is no shortage of work in Portsmouth – earn enough to buy a cheap flat here. (Yes, I’ve checked.)
    There are too many councils going bust and I have yet to see any evidence that government has taken a step back and taken a macro-level view of the problem, identifying common factors. Has it? If not, it needs to, and take action within the next four months. The electoral clock is ticking.

  12. Nigl
    November 2, 2023

    Maybe Sir JR whilst blaming the councils, nothing do with me Gov, would like to tell us why the Public Works Loan Board lent many times the Councils income, in fact the leverage is risible unless you know public sector officials are involved, without any diligence whatsoever.

    As a custodian of public money, ha, if they had done their job properly, this wouldn’t have happened.

    Equally he can tell us why when we are told money is tight this organisation gets Treasury approval to frankly ‘pour money down the drain’

    Another example of a totally unfit public service, no one will pay except, mmm, let me think.,Ah yes it would be us!

  13. Everhopeful
    November 2, 2023

    It is very annoying to look back to old photos of this town.
    It really was beautiful.
    And now after successive years of councilference it is simply…
    A dystopian wreck.
    As Betjeman said…”It isn’t fit for humans now.”
    And this dump has to be worse than Slough in the 1930s!

  14. Lewis Bowker
    November 2, 2023

    WBC don’t write to constituents anymore.
    It seems to rely on ITV (South today) to notify it’s forthcoming notifications.

  15. Everhopeful
    November 2, 2023

    Trees. Annoying muchly.
    The council cuts down many thriving trees.
    And then plants highly expensive votive, multi-cultural, virtue-signalling ones that of course, being used to warmer climes.
    Die with immediate effect.
    The fad over…reality hits and the dead offerings are just left staggering by the roadside.
    To rot.

  16. Lifelogic
    November 2, 2023

    The HR ‘diversity’ bureaucracy is a monster of the Tories’ own creation
    Railing against the EDI industry is the definition of shutting the door after the horse has bolted
    SAM ASHWORTH-HAYES in the Telegraph today.

    A sensible response to Gove’s comments the other day. After the horses have bolted and the Tories open the stable and pushed then out!

  17. MPC
    November 2, 2023

    You are right about Councils’ often reckless purchases of commercial property portfolios. When working on behalf of Birmingham City Council five years ago I was involved with a shopping centre in central Sutton Coldfield which was in poor condition with considerable long term repairing liabilities and vacant units. The freehold had been acquired by the City Council and the senior manager I reported to admitted that adequate pre purchase due diligence was not carried out. At least now it is integral to a proposed town centre regeneration scheme, so some lessons appear to have been learnt.

  18. Everhopeful
    November 2, 2023

    Refusing to pick up certain rubbish.
    Even for a price.
    And then refusing to remove the verge-destroying fly tipping that results.
    And oh my…here they are SO, SO….

  19. Dave Andrews
    November 2, 2023

    Local councils are governed by the councillors the electorate vote for. Blame the electorate.

    1. Richard II
      November 3, 2023

      You may be overlooking the “permanent council”, Dave. I mean the council officers who in Wokingham shape what the politicians are allowed to do. No doubt in other areas too, but here it’s flagrant.

      What the voters want isn’t necessarily what we get.

  20. Everhopeful
    November 2, 2023

    Councils and the civil service were highly encouraged to act like the private sector.
    Managers were flattered by this and tried to act like savvy spivs.
    Sadly they just weren’t up to it!
    The contract-providing private sector ran rings around them!

  21. Jude
    November 2, 2023

    The only way to stop this is too make all council budget holders accountable for these budgets. If they waste or lose these funds they will be sacked with no pension rights. It should be treated as mismanagement or at worse embezzlement! Private companies are constantly audited so should all public service providers. It’s not rocket science just good business practice, which also protects the jobholders.

  22. Bloke
    November 2, 2023

    The way many Local Authorities operate is like throwing Council Tax payers’ money on the fire as if money is supposed to be destroyed. Unaware of the wrong they cause, they claim to be properly fulfilling their defined duty: ‘Councils are responsible for waste’!

  23. Ian B
    November 2, 2023

    “Councils spend too much” isn’t that the same as with this Conservative Government, everyone gets to play the ego trip jump on the bandwagon of self-gratification and throws the Taxpayers money away. Our institutions and assumed authorities have no idea of the concept of management, it all about personalities wanting to leave their mark. Then when they are getting found out and doesn’t play well for them personally they hit out and punish the payer, the person that they asked to elect them.

  24. Ian B
    November 2, 2023

    Mean while the Telegraph is highlighting more of this Conservative Government deflection in it refusal to do its job and manage
    “The HR ‘diversity’ bureaucracy is a monster of the Tories’ own creation Railing against the EDI industry is the definition of shutting the door after the horse has bolted
    For a party that’s spent 13 years in office, the Conservatives seem curiously clueless as to how power actually works.
    Speaking at the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference this week, Michael Gove took aim at a “resentment industry” specialising in the “manufacture of grievance”. Rich companies, he believes, have formed a “coalition” with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) industry in order to entrench their wealth and evade criticism.”
    Is it any wonder that Local Councils play follow the Leader when this Conservative Government is so ridiculous

    1. Ian B
      November 2, 2023

      There is more and even more on this lunacy of follow the dictates from above to gain credit.
      Politics latest news: Terminator-style ‘loss of control’ gravest risk of AI, suggests Science Secretary – Michelle Donelan
      This comment sums it up “Someone with an arts degree and a career in marketing sounds about right to be appointed Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.”
      This conference is not about AI its about having more control on all the individuals in Society, stopping dissention. A Conservative Government that is bankrupt in its thinking all it cares about is the deflection away from people questioning their refusal to Manage the UK.

  25. agricola
    November 2, 2023

    I don’t wish to be harsh on councillors or their scribes because in my location they do a fairly good job. Rarely are councillors or their scribes high powered business men wearing different hats in public service. They tend to be people wishing to return something to the community in which they live. Having said that it follows that they should not be permitted to get involved in speculative business endeavours.
    It is down to national government to set the boundaries of their permitted activity. In that context and a desire to save rate payers money, all employees of local government and civil servants as a whole should make their own pension provision. The self employed and most of the employed have to invest in private pensions so I can see no reason for civil servants having a free ride.
    Additionally I think all our roads should be maintained by a national entity. The present arrangement, whatever it is, is a disaster.

    1. JoolsB
      November 2, 2023

      Not just local Government employees but all public sector employees and that includes MPs pensions. Why should the private sector fund pensions that they themselves can only dream of. Public sector pensions cost billions and are a ticking time bomb but no politician is going to want to upset the unions let alone their own little gravy trains.

  26. J+M
    November 2, 2023

    Instead of expensive EDI hires the Councils should focus on the day job of delivering the services the public need. It is not the role of a local authority to combat climate change; that is for central government,

  27. jerry
    November 2, 2023

    Surely if these Councils bought cheaply, basically they bought the value of the land, not the building(s) on it, many are now ripe for brown and grey field development, so encourage demolition and let the Councils/developers build new homes, or even industrial redevelopment.

    Easy to pour scorn on Councils but they do not exist in a vacuum, central government polices also play a big part, excessive UBR (that encourages ripping roofs off empty buildings), un-sustainably high VAT rates, an unwillingness to regulate online only discounters etc.

    1. jerry
      November 2, 2023

      Our host asks what is the most annoying waste of money from your local Council? Not spending £1,000 on maintenance now that ends up costing ten times the amount when the task, usually during the the next financial year, can no longer be sidelined.

      Then there are the daft accounting rules laid down from Whitehall that sees some jobs only half done come February/March because the Council either can’t borrow or needs to use up the current years budget, often meaning the work never gets completed or the whole job is done again the next financial year. This from a Council and County Council who has been Tory controlled for almost all their existence.

  28. Bryan Harris
    November 2, 2023

    Yes, time councils were fully audited for effectiveness and value for money – they get away with far too much. When in serious trouble due to bad management they declare themselves bankrupt – meaning the taxpayers suffer several times over.

    We seem to need a Bill in Parliament to get to the bottom of why councils are behaving like tin hat dictators, while accruing debts and failing to deliver services – something akin to the Andrew Bridgen Bill.

    1. jerry
      November 3, 2023

      @Bryan Harris; “time councils were fully audited for effectiveness and value for money”

      Having seen how the Audit Commission wasted money back in 2000-01, I have often asked since, “Who Audits the Auditors?”…

      The best Auditor is the (local) electorate, if they believe the incumbent politicos (individuals or as a Party group) deliver VFM they reelect, otherwise fresh faces appear. What I would like to see is the electorate given the power to confirm and recall senior non-elected (County) Council officers, many of who seem to get far to comfy spending our money!

  29. Peter Parsons
    November 2, 2023

    Would this include the £85 million that Wokingham Council borrowed to spend on buying commercial property?

    (At the time this borrowing was taken out, Wokingham Council was run by the Conservatives.)

  30. Berkshire Alan
    November 2, 2023

    Afraid the role of Councils has changed massively in my lifetime.
    It used to be about providing a basic working infrastructure, with the proper maintenance of roads, paths, drains, ditches, street lights, refuse collection, Public Parks, Gardens, swimming pools, sports fields, its own buildings, housing estates, schools and land, and even the planned lopping of trees, etc.
    It used to employ its own supervised labour force, that had the built in flexibility to adjust to local needs of the weather seasons.

    Now it is all about financial management and the collection of as much money as possible from Car parks, Driver fines, Council Tax, Business rates, and the re-distribution of Government grants their own income, and managing a whole range of Benefits and Social care.
    Most work now seems to be outsourced with little planning, supervision or flexibility.
    The basics have been forgotten or simply passed aside for so called casino money management.

    1. Mickey Taking
      November 3, 2023

      Yes – an excellent summary.

  31. forthurst
    November 2, 2023

    I strongly object to my Council renting dwellings off private landlords. Many of these are of course ex-council houses sold off under the Tories right to buy whose intended purpose is to turn all of us into good little pwoperty-owning Tory voters. As a council tax payer I am paying a multiple of the real cost of housing council tenants in council houses before Thatcher. I’m also paying far more for gas and electricity and water as a result of privatisions as well; foreign owners require big fat dividends whilst having a continental approach to sewage disposal.

  32. hefner
    November 2, 2023

    O/T: The three papers about AI posted on 25/10/2023 on ‘Frontier AI’ are worth reading:
    Capabilities and risks, 45 pp
    Future Risk of Frontier AI, 44 pp
    Safety and Security Risks of Generative Artificial Intelligence to 2025, 6 pp.

  33. Roy Grainger
    November 2, 2023

    “Many are still annoying many drivers with expensive schemes to delay the vans and cars more”.

    Except many of those schemes are implemented purely to generate income. Look at ULEZ, in 2022 that generated £224 million income from payments and fines. Where I live they sequence lights to trap cars in two box junctions and I believe fines from those those make them two of the biggest PCN income generators in London.

    1. jerry
      November 2, 2023

      @Roy Grainger; Is it not the case that all such scheme have to be approved by the DfT, so the SoS at Transport could block most if not all such schemes as a mater of policy(-shift), and is it not also true that the govt could block access to the DVLA database other than for the police and security forces, as used to be the case. In short if this govt wanted they could block all new 20mph zones, many other anti-car restrictions, and make ULEZ (plus private car parks & pre-payment toll collection etc) very difficult if they rely on ANPR and the DVLA database…

  34. Christine
    November 2, 2023

    Unfortunately, councils have been taken over by the Woke brigade whose primary aim seems to be the introduction of more net zero pain for their residents. Why people vote them in is a mystery to me but then again the lack of any information about council candidates might account for this. I just watched a YouTube video from a meeting from Colchester council who wanted to introduce 20 mph speed limits and more wind turbines and solar farms. Several very courageous women, members of the public, gave very eloquent speeches outlining the negative side of the council’s proposals. As expected everything was just voted through with a large majority. The brainwashing of officials continues unabated.

  35. formula57
    November 2, 2023

    The most annoying waste is employing staff well-adjusted to the smug public sector ethos of “we can do no wrong”.

    The most expensive waste is a property portfolio that with some imagination includes something called a battery park that the external auditors required to be valued at £3 million less than the council’s £20 milliion figure.

    A recent briefing for councillors about prospects for serving a Section 114 notice (admitting insolvency) in the next few months was reportedly attended by only around a third of them.

  36. Christine
    November 2, 2023

    Our council has spent the last three years ripping the heart out of our village to widen the road between the multitude of new housing estates that have been built in the area. Cutting down trees and destroying the grass verges. None of the village residents I’ve spoken to want this scheme. Meanwhile, we have an old lady who volunteers to pick up litter; we have volunteers running the library; and the rest of the pavements and roads are full of potholes. No new schools or doctors surgeries have been built to cope with the increased population and antisocial behaviour is rising.

    1. graham1946
      November 3, 2023

      Seems to be the same here, except that absolutely no road widening etc. is taking place – our country lanes remain just that in spite of the thousands of new houses going up without a thought. Seems the councils have to accept the numbers central government thrusts on them. The builders on one estate on a flood plain promised to put in additional drainage when building, but having got the planning permission on this basis reneged on it saying it was too expensive and dared the council to take them to court over it, which of course they could afford to do. They promise new doctors’ surgeries etc. and may or may not build them, but do not of course have to provide the doctors. It’s all a money making scam and the big builders have made enormous profits over recent years, with the scandal of one such even giving it’s CEO 70 millon pound bonus one year (reduced from over 100 million). Houses do not seem to be being sold on a cost plus profit basis, but on ‘market levels’ thus tatty shoe boxes with postage stamp gardens go for up to half a million pounds and all on quality farm land, so it’s nice and easy.

  37. graham1946
    November 2, 2023

    My two thoughts:-

    1) I understand that approximately half the money we pay in Council Tax goes to pay their pension schemes, whilst many tax payers can hardly afford to pay anything in to their own. This needs to stop and council employees should be in the same position as private pension buyers not base themselves on Civil Servants.

    2)Councils ‘own’ the Planning Depts. so surely they could change the use of any useless shops they own and/or other non used assets into housing and sell them off (the value will be much enhanced with such planning permission), or if they can do it, turn them into council housing to help them house people on their waiting lists. They would then get rid of the dross properties, possibly reduce their housing waiting list and/or get rent income.

  38. Bert+Young
    November 2, 2023

    Local Government Officials have the same problem as National Government ones , they do not always have the necessary skills and experience for the roles they undertake ; the result is the problem Sir John explains. Putting wrongs to right would be an admission of guilt to these individuals and this never seems to happen . Medium to longer term planning is the ingredient to any efficiently run organisation ; I doubt this exists in the Local Government where I Iive and have to pay extremely high monthly tax .

  39. a-tracy
    November 2, 2023

    There are very successful shopping areas though those with free parking, one so busy even at 7 pm at night the place is still buzzing. People are disappointed the shops close early on a Sunday because it is a destination place, somewhere for a family to go for the whole day.

    In the city shopping centres we used to visit like Chester, you’ve spent £10 on parking before you start; I don’t want to park and ride because I only go there to go shopping and buy things, if we park central we can pop back and put them in the boot as we go along. Hanley is dying, Crewe euk, Warrington yawn.

    Allowing so many big supermarkets to take over local towns has killed them off; you can only park for sufficient time to do your shopping and maybe pop to one other store, no lunch or hairdresser, so you go elsewhere. When the big supermarket takes over the local florists, tv shop, butchers, card shops, gift shops you’re just left with what the big six want to offer you, with reducing lines, instore butchers closing down and just plastic trays. This has been encouraged, much easier for governments to control a few businesses than lots of independents.

  40. iain gill
    November 2, 2023

    its sad to see that the limited amounts of “choice” given to NHS patients by Blair are being rolled back by a Conservative government. really the NHS gets away with far too much.

    when the Blair govt saw how bad some diabetes services were, and how were so bad they were pretty much leaving patients to die, they introduced “out of area referrals” so many of the most complex, or most let down, patients got referred into better centres of excellence in places like London.

    now with the massive amount of immigration into London, and the funds not following the patients, the centres of excellence are being forced to discharge patients back to their local diabetes centres.

    which will do a number of things, the “centres of excellence” will no longer be able to take the most complex cases, and will turn into generic “me too” centres, the patients who are being let down badly will be unable to escape and do anything other than move address to another part of the country (if they can afford that)

    why is a Conservative government allowing the NHS to operate ever more “ration and allocate” model? why are they letting patients down like this?

    Dentistry has fallen off a cliff face too. Even for private patients now, there is essentially no out of hours emergency cover in many parts of the country. Why can we not get the basics right?

    1. a-tracy
      November 3, 2023

      Lifelogic, you’d be one of the first people calling for better terms and conditions for doctors, the 2004 contract did that, it removed the obligation for on-call for around £6000 pa, which could be made up in payments for other services offered at each practice. It was reported at the time, that too many people were abusing the system, calling doctors out at night for minor complaints, so we all lost it. Each local area was expected to have ‘voluntary’ rotas with doctors sharing 6 pm to 10 pm cover, but hardly anyone volunteered to do it (some local areas are offering this now so I suspect extra money was offered to bring some back to relieve local hospital A&E units). Local hospitals had to have walk-in centres instead, and it was decided to make mega hospitals instead of having local community units; these ‘walk-in centres’ were often a long way away, and people without cars resorted to calling out ambulances, all very predictable, I wrote about it a lot before it happened.

      Blair wrecked dentistry. 17 Jan 2008 — … Tony Blair promising in 1999 that everyone would have access to NHS dental care. Then in 2006, they introduced a new dental contract… read about it.

      1. a-tracy
        November 3, 2023

        Sorry Iain, I get so used to reading Lifelogic comments 🙂

        1. iain gill
          November 4, 2023

          dont worry.

          there is much in what you say.

          24/7 walk in clinics in other countries are staffed by docs, here they were nurses only in many places, and just added another delay before getting the correct treatment.

          some places like Bristol organised proper out of hours GP service, properly staffed, cars driving the GP’s to the homes of people in need etc. other parts of the country have basically given up on out of hours care.

          yep the contract renegotiation was a disaster, no doubt the people who did it are still in the civil service and had lots of promotions.

          we really need to just copy the Australian or New Zealand models of healthcare from top to bottom.

  41. Keith from Leeds
    November 2, 2023

    But is not council spending a reflection of the Government’s spending? Why should a council care about the pounds if the government does not look after the pennies? We have appalling management of Taxpayers money, council tax and business rates.
    As an example of waste, I live on a small estate, which is mainly used by the residents and the roads in go nowhere, simply round the estate and back to the main road. Recently all three roads coming into the estate have had big 20 MPH signs painted on them. Most people don’t travel much faster than that anyway and who is going to police it, nobody. So a total waste of money by Leeds Council.

  42. a-tracy
    November 2, 2023

    The local councils had to invest in some schemes to free up funding from the central government, didn’t they?

    It’s been a while since I looked into what our local council was doing; information feedback to residents was ruined when our local Borough Council was abolished and put in a bigger County Council organisation concentrating efforts elsewhere in our County and stopping quarterly area meetings that used to be very busy.

    When these councils are investing in, say, local housing stock, what return are the rest of the residents getting for that investment? What is being made better for everyone, not just the few hundred the council can choose to get a new house? I wonder how many of them work for the council or are related to the council workforce; there are a lot of HA workers in the nicest houses.

  43. XY
    November 2, 2023

    I have no idea what my council spends its money on. At least they don’t appear in the news (or Taxpayers Alliance emails) as one of the disfunctional councils, but that’s probably the only way I’d notice.

    Their operations are rather opaque. Most people have busy lives and can’t spend time hunting down information on this – and since many councils are not even publishing accounts, we don’t even have that as a source (and accounts are not always clear as to what’s really happened anyway since they often lump expenditure under fairly general categories, meaningless to voters).

    If council operations were more transparent, perhaps they would be held accountable to a greater extent by voters. Most people only look at their council tax bill and only become concerned if it goes up too much – even then, they probably moan a while, then get on with their lives.

    A question for MPs, perhaps, is… how do we get information on council activities to the voters? And how do we do it in a way ordinary people can understand (and will be able to absorb in the time they have available)?

  44. Paula
    November 2, 2023

    All those public sector pensions that ordinary workers are paying for whilst being unable to afford their own.
    This is the issue that will cause our next revolution.

  45. MFD
    November 2, 2023

    Buying solar farms!! Oh dear these councils are out of their depth. Solar panels loose their efficiency year by year and eventually as I found out , delaminate and stop producing. Then there is no option but to scrap and renew.
    1 How could they be sure the farm they bought was not reaching redundancy?
    2 I found it was not value for money to replace so I left them off, have they bought a duck!
    They should not be allowed to make this type of invrstment.

    1. Peter Parsons
      November 3, 2023

      Wokingham Borough’s Solar Farm was approved in September 2021 when the council was Conservative run. The Conservative council approved £20 million of borrowing for it.

      Reply The costs have now gone up and there is a big delay in getting it onto the grid so it is now a very bad idea

  46. glen cullen
    November 2, 2023

    Local councils have been forced by this government to resource net-zero, diversity and illegal immigrants

  47. BW
    November 2, 2023

    I see the council is advertising (or was ) for another diversity advisor to add to the plethora of non jobs they already have. I am looking forward to hear what my reduction in council tax will be in relation to the reduction in my household waste collection, and of course all the other reductions in service provision. Stop wasting my money.

  48. Mark J
    November 2, 2023

    I have noticed in Woodley Prescient that the row of shops next to Waitrose, and the flats above are now being sold.

    These properties were purchased and owned by WBC, and are now clearly being sold off to raise funds.

    We do not give public money for Local Councils to speculate on the property market – in particular the commercial property market.

    Even with the money raised from the sale of these ‘council owned assets’, what will the Lib Dems then waste the money on? No doubt we will still be facing huge council tax rises to fund their incompetence.

    For years we had to ensure numerous copies of ‘Lib Dem Focus’ with every articles blaming the Tories for every issue in the local community. After two years in control of WBC, they have proven themselves to be no better whatsoever.

    Did the Conservatives ever take WBC to the brink of bankruptcy, like the Lib Dems have?

    Whilst I’m extremely unhappy with the Conservatives nationally, I still believe they did a better job of running WBC than the current useless Lib Dem administration. Local residents do not want to see bin collections cut, food waste bags axed, street lightening turned off, parking charges and Council taxes increased – just to fund yet more wasteful spending elsewhere and huge pay rises at WBC HQ.

  49. JoolsB
    November 2, 2023

    “What is the most annoying waste of money from your local Council? How many extra admin staff have they taken on in recent years?”

    Who the hell has been in charge of this country for the last 13 years? At least Osborne for all his many faults froze council tax in England after it doubled under Labour. So why if they are wasting so much money has your Chancellor given them the green light to increase our council tax by 5% year on year. England only of course as they are set to be frozen in Scotland as they were under Blair. And who is going to pick up the bill for all the millions of migrants, legal and otherwise your Government is allowing in every year? Why us council taxpayers of course.
    Our pensions are below the average income but we still have to pay well over £3,000 a year. We are very rural, no pavements, no streetlights, one bus a day at the end of the lane. So please tell me John, where on earth is our money going?
    Millionaires Hunt and Sunak yet again prove how out of touch with reality they are if they think the public can go on being squeezed year on year by what is already an exorbitant and unfair tax which takes no account of income or ability to pay.
    So tell me John, who has the power to do something about this if it isn’t this out of touch ConSocialist Government.

  50. Original Richard
    November 2, 2023

    “What is the most annoying waste of money from your local Council? How many extra admin staff have they taken on in recent years?”

    Pursuing Net Zero when there is no climate emergency.

    Extra staff, wasted meetings etc etc. The council has bought a fleet of brand new diesel HGV diesel vehicles (I don’t think the ev versions exist or are capable of doing the job) when converting their existing diesel fleet to LNG would have saved an enormous sum of money as well as being even more environmentally friendly than the new diesels.

    Green methane/LNG is even available….

  51. oldwulf
    November 2, 2023

    “What is the most annoying waste of money from your local Council?”

    In 2015 the Local Authority commenced the refurbishment of an entertainment venue, scheduled to take about 18 months and cost around £10m.

    The venue permanently reopened a few months ago and the costs were nearly £50m.

    The first contractor went into receivership, there have been legal arguments with the replacement contractor… and an independent report was commissioned to absolve the Local Authority. The report only covers 2018 to 2022.

    The Local Authority’s Chief Operating Officer said the council had outlined a number of lessons learned from the period, saying that in future the authority would have a “much more detailed and vigorous approach to public project assurance”, and that there would be “much greater emphasis” on internal audit.

  52. glen cullen
    November 2, 2023

    Tory MP says “we must call in the army” to stop the ‘million-strong’ Palestine march desecrating the two-minute silence on Armistice Day ‘express online’
    Who sanctioned this march ?

    1. a-tracy
      November 3, 2023

      I’m feeling very unsettled about this Armistice weekend, Glen.
      The protests in London will have been every weekend for four weekends, and the shops and other businesses will be affected as people avoid central London. It is winding people up to ask to march on remembrance day.

  53. mancunius
    November 2, 2023

    So the Local Authorities, hungry for extra cash for their spendthrift pension schemes, speculated with the local taxpayers’ money and threw billions of £ into commercial property ventures.
    Meanwhile, the LAs made life impossible for commercial businesses by increasing the business rates. Then they made it impossible for their customers by restricting parking, making it hellishly expensive and levying draconian fines – so it became even more hopeless for businesses. Then the LAs turned lockdown into a nightmare by getting the police to chase everyone out of the city centres and close down hospitality and entertainment businesses, allowed and paid every public servant in the land to absentee themselves, and treated every driver like a criminal.
    Then after lockdown naturally people preferred to continue doing online shopping and eating (more cheaply) at home. The previously captive worker population also disappeared off to wfh. City centre spending has plummeted – except for the coffee chains.
    And now the LAs are stuck with rising debts on income-less and value-less properties nobody wants, for which in many cases entire traffic systems have been uprooted and rendered so user-unfriendly that now nobody wants to visit the moribund, dysfunctional city.
    As an object lesson in how to kill the goose and smash all its golden eggs, it could hardly be bettered.
    The LA’s vast, unfunded pensions should now be closed down.

  54. Peter Gardner
    November 3, 2023

    “Many are still annoying many drivers with expensive schemes to delay the vans and cars more.”

    Indeed, but it isn’t only that. ULEZ reduces the revenue and inceases the costs of the properties bought by Council and so undermines the case for the investment and will make it more diffcult to sell the properties.

  55. Sea_Warrior
    November 3, 2023

    Isn’t there a clear need for any proposed dabbling by councils in non-core activities to be subject to prior-approval by grown-ups in central government?

    1. Mickey Taking
      November 3, 2023

      and their Council Tax payers!

  56. Diane
    November 3, 2023

    Our area had an expensive cycle scheme finally imposed during the last couple of years with the help of TFL despite much very sensible & constructive local opposition and suggestion. It is along a busy main through road, not very wide with a rail station one end & hospital the other with much bus & ambulance traffic. So what we ended up with was a ‘told ya so! ‘ moment where several rather potentially dangerous spots emerged with just one having now been conceded by the council. So more hard earned recently spent digging up a section which was causing a problem which could no longer be ignored in order to rewiden & additionally dig up newly planted trees ( we’re told they were to be replanted elsewhere … ) The cycle path is very little used as far as we can tell.

  57. Lindsay+McDougall
    November 4, 2023

    The reason that Birmingham City Council is in trouble is the method they chose to implement equal pay. Instead of putting men’s salaries down a bit and women’s salaries up a bit, they left men’s salaries unchanged and raised women’s salaries. Result – increased payroll costs with no compensating gain.

    Is this idiocy commonplace?

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