Friday, October 27, 2006

Southampton - Bleak City?...and today's White Paper on local government


Picture copyright The Daily Echo.

"Dramatic cuts in jobs and services and tax rises are on the cards as city chiefs try to plug a £5.8 million hole in Southampton’s £265 million annual budget", so say The Southern Daily Echo, Southampton's (fairly dire) local newspaper. Read the article at

and the details of the savings at

Actually there are are no cuts proposed as such as yet. The government has yet to reveal what its settlement will be for next year. but the Council Officer's attempts to identify savings make interesting reading. Personally I think there are far bigger savings to be made among some of their own pet projects.
Today the government also published the long-awaited White Paper on Local Government (it was expected in June but when Ruth Kelly got Prescott's job she was apparently unimpressed with his brand of 'regionalism' and ordered much of it to be re-worked). Plough through the spin at
if you have the inclination.
Because there is a government review of local government finance at the moment, the paper is actually something of a damp squib- the new package offers nothing to help those people struggling to pay sky high council tax bills and it provides no comfort for people worrying about how to pay care home fees. It certainly does nothing to give local people a real say in housing developments, over-development and other planning concerns.
I am not sure the paper does much for democracy either.
Labour's apparent conversion to localism is at best dubious unless and until Labour ministers ditch their plans for regional assemblies. Under the White Paper plans, councils in England will get new powers to introduce bylaws with fixed penalty fines without requiring the approval of Whitehall and Parliament (why?) ; there will be more directly-elected mayors (despite being far from popular in many cities where they have been adopted); while police chiefs and local health and education bosses will find themselves facing greater scrutiny from the public (but still not be directly elected) . My guess is that should he become PM, Gordon Brown will move Ruth Kelly and have another go at local government reform. For example, it is well known that Blair favours elected mayors, Brown does not.


Blogger Jeremy Moulton said...

I have read through the shortened version. The long version is over 200 pages!

I am really unimpressed. As you say the Lyons Review on funding will be the important report. This White Paper smacks of top down control. It imposes more conditions on local government. What really needs to happen is for the Government to back off and rebalance funding of local government so that the majority of funds come through local taxation rather than through central government grant.

Underlying the whole review in my view is the objective of undermining local councils, most of which are Conservative. The sooner this government goes so we can have a fresh approach the better.

1:39 pm  

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