Councils should consider putting word limits on documents, using free grazing sheep rather than lawn mowers and sending children in care to boarding schools in order to save millions of pounds, Eric Pickles has said.
The Communities Secretary has endorsed a string of radical proposals for bringing down the cost of local government and cutting council tax, including charging staff to use their own car parks and ending grants to local theatres.
The report, written by Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Harry Phibbs and published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, said hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved each year if councils shared their services with neighbouring councils and merged the jobs of senior executives.
The 201 proposals include closing down subsidised town hall canteens, scrapping foreign language translations of council documents and rewarding council house tenants who do their own repairs.
Climate Change officers, European Officers, full-time union representatives, ‘diversity’ staff and people who take frequent sick days should be fired, Mr Phibbs recommended. There should be no more press officers than the local newspaper has reporters.
Membership of bodies such as the Local Government Association and the Association of North East Councils should also be cancelled, and staff banned from attending conferences and award ceremonies.
More children in care should be put up for adoption, or sent to boarding schools, improving their life chances and saving thousands of pounds, the report said.
Residents should be told to compost their garden waste rather than have it collected by the council, Mr Phibbs recommends, while staff should buy and water their own office plants. His council had saved £36,000 by banning mineral water, he said.
Council documents should come with a word limit. “Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending,” Mr Phibbs said. Spare buildings and car parks should be sold and corporate credit card spending published online in real-time for residents to inspect, Mr Phibbs adds.
He also suggests: “Where appropriate, use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting.”
Mr Phibbs said many of his ideas were modest “common sense” proposals that would each save a few thousand pounds a year but would help encourage a culture of frugality.
Mr Pickles said council officials should read the report and consider implementing its findings before proposing council tax increases.
“This report exposes how there is still massive waste in the public sector,” he said.
“There is significant scope for town halls to save taxpayers’ money, helping keep council tax down and protect frontline services. Councils which complain about so-called cuts need to read through this report and justify their spending to local taxpayers.”
He added: “Central government could learn many a practical tip from this too.”
“In future, any civic leader claiming that raising the council tax is their only option had better be able to prove that they have implemented or at least considering every single idea we are putting before them today,” said Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
“If not, they won’t be able to look their residents in the eye and insist that they have exhausted the possibilities for saving money.”
Last year Mr Pickles’ department proposed 50 money-saving tips for councils, including setting up pop-up shops in empty buildings and cancelling away-days in luxury hotels.
In full: 201 ways to cut your council tax, by Harry Phibbs
1 Share services with neighbouring councils.
2 Share services with other public sector bodies. “Joined up” government between the NHS and councils’ adult social care departments is particularly important. It costs the NHS £255 on average to keep a patient overnight – around four times the cost per night of a nursing home. Yet often the elderly are stuck in hospitals waiting for places in nursing homes to become available. These patients would usually prefer to move out of noisy wards in dauntingly large and impersonal hospitals.
3 If you can’t share services, share office space. If there is spare office space in the town hall, rent it out.
4 Try to negotiate joint procurement deals with neighbouring councils and other parts of the public sector.
5 Freeze recruitment.
6 Scrap political advisers.
7 Cut the number of press officers. Make sure you have no more than the number of local newspaper reporters.
8 Cut the number of Scrutiny Coordinators. One full time person to organise all the scrutiny meetings should be enough.
9 Cut the number of coordinators for assorted other committees and panels.
10 Place more children up for adoption. Reducing the number of Looked After children by placing more of them in permanent loving homes is principally good news for them. But it is also good news for the Council Tax payer. Social workers are often risk-averse about adoption but it overwhelmingly offers children better life chances than keeping them in care. (What is your performance as measured by the number of Looked After Children per 10,000 children in your area? What are the barriers to adoption caused by avoidable bureaucratic delay or politically correct prejudices?)
11 For those children who remain in care, where possible send them to boarding schools. A Policy Exchange paper, A Better Start in Life, said that the Government should issue some guidance with criteria of the type of children that should be prioritised and hold local authorities to account where such children are not being given this opportunity.
12 Where children remain in care, keep to a minimum the number in institutional children’s homes. Place them for fostering in family homes. This is much better for the children. The specialist, highly-paid foster carers who can cope with “challenging” children are far less costly than the phenomenally expensive children’s homes.
13 Minimise the use of taxis for taking children in care to and from school. The cost is huge as they usually require escorts as well. It also causes a stigma for the children being marked out as different. If the children are too young to go to and from school themselves, it is better for them to be picked up and dropped off by their foster carers.
14 Cut subsidies to private landlords. Many councils give private sector housing grants to landlords to enable the repair and adaptation of private rented. Can these subsidies be cut?
15 Do you have a Town Hall canteen? How many meals does it serve and what is its subsidy? Remember to take account of the cost of the space it is taking up. It should probably be closed. Council officers find better fare along the high street.
16 Charge to hold events in parks. Make sure you charge enough to reflect the need to clear up afterwards and protect the grass. Also ensure that the choice of events is sensitive to the wishes of residents. But often revenue can be secured for events which residents enjoy – annual fireworks, an ice rink, open air opera, farmers’ markets, fun fairs, etc.
17 Stop funding translations/interpreting for Council documents and services. This money is much better spent teaching people English. But even redirecting some of it you should still find some room for Council Tax cuts.
18 Scrap arts subsidies. Giving subsidies to one theatre so it can run plays that residents would not be willing to finance by paying to go and see them is not a reasonable use of Council Tax payers’ money.
19 Don’t own and run museums and arts centres. Allow trusts to take them over. They will tend to do a better job and this will reduce maintenance costs for the council.
20 Don’t employ Fair Trade Coordinators.
21 Don’t employ Diversity Officers or ask residents to fill in monitoring forms for ethnicity, sexuality and religion.
22 Don’t employ Climate Change Officers.
23 Old fashioned public lavatories can sometimes represent pretty poor value for money in terms of the cost of maintenance in relation to how often they are used. Often the buildings can be valuable capital assets. A better arrangement may be to pay pubs a small fee for agreeing to allow non-drinkers to use their loos free of charge.
24 Sell private sector advertising on council notice boards and the council website.
25 Even more revenue can be obtained by allowing advertising billboards on council land adjoining busy roads, where this is appropriate.
26 Cease funding Law Centres. (A double saving as they often sue the council so the Council Tax payers end up paying for the lawyers on both sides.)
27 Libraries: change the rota system to keep them open during lunch hours and also reduce staff numbers at the same time. Encourage volunteers to take over libraries. Often this has allowed for increased opening hours at reduced cost and increased numbers and satisfaction rates among visitors.
28 Cut spending on advertising. Of course, freezing recruitment will help.
29 Review school governor training/”support” and tailor it to individual needs. A lot of the time the bureaucratic jargon just puts people off becoming governors.
30 Stop spending money on management consultants.
31 Close the Film Unit if your Council has one. It is good to have your council on the big screen and you can charge the film makers to generate revenue. But someone can take bookings as a side line – this doesn’t need a full time post let alone a team. After all, a Film Unit which has greater spending than revenue doesn’t make much sense.
32 Sell off council owned waste land for market housing.
33 Own fewer council buildings. This can mainly be achieved by reducing the number of staff but also by smarter working, even more staff working from home.
34 Use “hot desking”.
35 Cancel your annual subscription to the Local Government Association. This is a surprisingly significant sum.
36 Cancel your subscription to the regional local government bodies – such as London Councils, the Association of North East Councils, etc. Often these subscriptions are even higher than the ones to the LGA.
37 Cancel your membership sub to the Local Government Information Unit.
38 Cancel your membership subs to most other bodies of which you are members.
39 Cancel payments for diversity training/consultancy provided by such bodies as Stonewall.
40 Stop sending people off to conferences. One advantage of not being members of these bodies is that there won’t be the same scope for sending staff off to their events at vast expense.
41 Sell surplus assets. This is a crucial means of reducing debt and thus the debt interest payments which are often a big component of what the Council Tax funds.
42 Sell council-owned farms. Also sell council-owned pubs, shops, golf courses, caravan sites, business parks etc.
43 To help identify those items on the point above publish an assets register.
44 If you don’t have debt and have reserves in the bank. Why are you keeping the reserves? You will only end up being tempted to spend it on something. The reserves should be diminished by lower Council Tax. Remember whose money it is.
45 Spending on the disabled and elderly should be focused on practical help not funding politicised advocacy lobby groups. Total spending in this area could be cut leaving room for lower Council Tax while still spending more on voluntary groups such as Help the Aged that provide caring, practical help.
46 Employing full time Disabled Access Officers in the Planning Department is poor value for money. Planning applications have to meet statutory requirements for disabled access but it should not be for Councils to engage in “gold plating.”
47 Use sprinklers in care homes, allowing a potential reduction in night staff and a safer situation for elderly residents. Homes that do not have sprinklers can be more dangerous when a fire occurs as it sometimes takes several members of staff to carry one resident to safety. This has been proven not only to save money but to save lives. The National Fire Sprinkler Network has done marvellous work on this.
48 Shop around for your insurance premiums.
49 Reduce staff training to the statutory minimum.
50 Cease paying staff to work full- or part—time for trade unions. Why should staff be paid for roles that they do not carry out? This costs taxpayers £113 million across the public sector.
51 Cease to collect trade union membership subscriptions – at least without charge.
52 Cease to provide trade unions with rent free office space.
53 Charge for use of the staff car park.
54 Review street lighting usage. Some councils have excessive street lighting. As with much else, this is probably due to a culture of being unduly risk averse over health and safety. Aside from the cost, we cause light pollution and increase our carbon footprint. Councillors should consult residents to see where the lighting is really needed or where it may be switched off 30 minutes or an hour earlier.
55 Alternatively, it might suit some councils to have periods where only half the lights are switched on (e.g. between 3am and 5am when scarcely anyone is using the streets).
56 Scrap the Local Authority clerking service for school governor meetings. One of the governors or the headmaster’s secretary can take the minutes.
57 Outsource. Put all services out to tender as Essex is doing – already with annual savings of over £150 million.
58 Remember that voluntary and community groups as well as private firms may offer a better means of providing a service than the council’s own workforce, for instance in providing additional assistance to children with literacy problems.
59 Encourage residents to use the Mail Preference Service which stops addressed junk mail and then saves the cost of disposing of it. Direct Mail “individually addressed advertising messages” accounts for 181,500 tons of waste nationally. Say a largish council has 1,000 tons of it to dispose of at a cost of £83 a ton: that’s £83,000 a year it spends putting people’s junk mail in landfill.
60 Ban mineral water at meetings. Use tap water instead. This has saved us £36,000 a year in Hammersmith and Fulham.
61 Save money on printing. Stop producing glossy brochures. The thicker the paper, the shinier the pages, the brighter the colours the more residents think: “So this is what my Council Tax goes on.” The printing bill for a typical council is millions of pounds.
62 Turn down the temperature in the town hall and other council buildings. How low does the temperature get before the heaters come on? We used to have the windows open and the heaters blasting away at the same time.
63 Cut transaction costs by offering a discount to those who pay by direct debit, for instance for the Council Tax.
64 Cut transaction costs by facilitating as much as possible via the website – eg allow parking permits to be renewed online. It also may make sense to offer discounts for payments online.
65 Take a tough line in dismissing staff for persistent absenteeism. Monitor those who particularly claim to be sick on Fridays and Mondays. This will be easier, having ceased funding full-time union posts as the unions string out hearings for as long as possible. More positively, look at ways to improve the health of council staff. Flu jabs represent good value for money in reducing genuine sickness.
66 Keep a tight grip on spending on agency staff.
67 Encourage staff to suggest efficiencies. Offer a prize for the best suggestions. But also allow anonymous entries.
68 Ensure that the number of staff engaged in health and safety enforcement is kept to the statutory minimum.
69 Councils should not be running leisure centres. They could still pay for subsidised swimming for local residents or particular groups should they so choose. This will tend to be more cost effective than running the whole operation.
70 Where appropriate use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting.
71 Combine the post of Finance Director and Chief Executive.
72 Ensure that grit and road salt is bought efficiently and at a good price. Don’t get caught out with low stocks as a huge premium is often charged.
73 See if cafes could be opened in redundant park buildings, thus allowing a revenue stream to the council in rent.
74 Assess whether the staff employed to collect fees cost more in salaries than the income they gather in. For instance, if you are employing three people to collect £15,000 a year from cafes for having tables and chairs on the pavement, this is not good value for money.
75 Where extra spending would secure a desirable objective consider whether the money could come from sponsorship rather than the council. For instance new street trees could be funded by encouraging households to sponsor a new tree in their street, Christmas lights can be sponsored by local business.
76 End garden waste collection. Apart from the financial cost, it can do more harm than good for the environment. Much better value is promoting composting, for instance by offering everyone a free composter.
77 Save money relocating some council operations to parts of the country where costs are lower. Westminster Council has saved very substantial sums by moving back-office processing operations and telephony services which don’t require specialist knowledge. There are now 250-300 staff in Dingwall employed by a company called Vertex working for Westminster Council, undertaking a great range of services.
78 Freeze councillor allowances.
79 Reduce storage costs and insurance costs by making sure the council is not keeping equipment that is never used.
80 Cut down the number of cars for the Parks Constabulary. It’s better to have them patrolling on foot anyway.
81 Review all the items you charge for. Cease offering services you charge for which run at a loss and merely duplicate what is offered commercially or by charities.
82 Cease charging where the transactions costs are greater than the revenue. For example charging schools to use parks for sports days. Towing cars away for mild parking offences can break even or run at a loss, despite the heavy fines charged.
83 Compare your charges to other Councils. Do your tariffs make sense to residents?
84 Open cafes in the corner of libraries where there is some space. This could produce revenue as well as attracting more library users.
85 Rationalise the number of council departments.
86 Look at the cost effectiveness of housing grants. How many people are employed administering these grants? How many go to owner occupiers who even if cash poor are asset rich and could be eligible for equity release schemes to fund home improvements.
87 Scrap requirements for contractors, for instance, requiring a building firm tendering for work to produce an “equalities policy”. All firms have to abide by plenty of statutory requirements on equality as it is. Councils should not be involved in gold plating. It imposes a double cost. Putting off contractors tendering who can’t be bothered with an equalities policy possibly means ending up with higher costs. There is also the staff time taken up with the “assessment” of the equalities policies.
88 Cease funding racially separatist interest groups.
89 Seek an arrangement with central government that the council is given some financial reward for reducing bills to central government, for instance in reducing welfare dependency.
90 Art leasing: often councils have valuable works of arts that aren’t on display and cost money in storage and insurance. Sometimes selling them may not be appropriate or even legally possible if they have been given to the council. But revenue could also be obtained from leasing the works of arts.
91 Art sales provide an alternative to leasing, especially for highly valuable works of art. Often it is most valuable works that are kept in storage due to security considerations. For these reasons there may also be concerns about leasing. The option of a council just keeping its art collection in storage is wrong on both cultural and financial grounds.
92 Town Halls and other municipal buildings often sit empty at weekends. Take a more aggressive and creative stance in seeking revenue from bookings. Consider using private agencies for this.
93 Charge for teaching other councils how to set up specialist services. For instance if you have a CCTV control room whose manager has the relevant qualifications, there could be substantial revenue in him or her running occasional courses in how to operate it.
94 Speed up the planning process. Give clear guidelines about the basics such as good design in the initial stages but reduce the gold plating demands on matters such as health and safety and disabled access. A lot of officers spend their time on such matters but the statutory requirements are quite onerous enough.
95 Put in an arrangement whereby the council leader and cabinet members have a firm grip on spending. The threshold for where spending needs to be authorised by the leader has been reduced from £300,000 to £100,000 in my borough. Of course, there is no point in doing this if the leader is a pussycat who waves everything through.
96 Any recruitment of new posts should be approved by the Vacancy Management Panel chaired by the council leader.
97 Don’t be too proud to constantly check if other authorities are achieving lower costs or higher standards for a service and, if so, whether they are achieving this through greater efficiency. Benchmark. Benchmark. Benchmark. After that do some more benchmarking.
98 Set maximum word limits on the length of reports submitted by officers. Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending.
99 Set limits to the length of responses to Member Enquiries. They should answer the question raised and not be essays on the general subject. Saving officer time allows for fewer officers to be employed.
100 Youth Clubs and Youth Centres. These should not always be run by the council: they are typically pretty drab, dreary institutions when they are. Some of the money saved by closing them could go in higher grants to charitable and community groups which run youth groups, or partnership arrangements with the private sector or groups like the Prince’s Trust which provide facilities for the young.
101 Scrap pointless award ceremonies. Staff that have performed well deserve recognition but there are cheaper ways to do this than by holding expensive and frivolous events.
102 Check the list of those outside bodies being given free or subsidised office space by the council. They could well be in buildings which could be sold.
103 Where post offices are threatened with closure see if there would be space for them to be relocated in a council library. This would offer an income stream while also saving an important local service for the community.
104 Cease employing European Officers. I understand they are particularly prevalent on county councils. Essentially they are propagandists for European integration.
105 Ensure you have the highest possible penalties for staff engaged in fraud.
106 Cease employing Work Experience Coordinators.
107 Scrap all “nanny state” posts. “Five a Day” officers, etc.
108 Use energy saving light bulbs.
109 Review areas where the council is operating in competition with the private sector. My council used to own and run a high street laundrette, for example. Central Bedfordshire also owned garages.
110 Look at the eligibility criteria for some of the services offered. Should pensioners all be treated the same or should the age limit sometimes be raised which might allow extra help for the very old as well as saving money? For instance, the London-wide TaxiCard scheme where the London Boroughs each pay hundreds of thousands of pounds a year: should we reassess eligibility?
111 Sell off redundant park lodges by the entrances to parks and other facilities for market housing. Apart from the revenue, often these beautiful buildings become eyesores when left empty with their windows boarded up, etc.
112 Generally claims of “spend to save” or “investment” should be treated with scepticism. But within budgets there will sometimes be genuine possibilities. For example, providing more litter bins might be a more cost effective way of reducing street litter than employing more road sweepers.
113 Performance-related pay for departmental managers. If they come in under budget, they get a bonus. If they come in over budget, they get their pay docked.
114 Do not have children’s playgroups directly run by the council. Instead better value for less money can be achieved through funding this much-needed resource via the voluntary sector, community groups and independent groups of mothers.
115 Would it make sense for a county council and its constituent districts to form a unitary authority? Councillors in Wiltshire have said this has saved a fortune through efficiency savings.
116 Fewer CRB checks. For example, they are not needed for school governors or other volunteers who are not on their own with children.
117 Where CRB checks are needed, avoid duplication and reduce the cost. North Hertfordshire District Council reports: “We make applications for CRB checks to our Council for Voluntary Service who can carry these out at a lower cost than statutory agencies such as the police, but the fees they receive, a small profit for them, pays for their employee to work every afternoon as well helping the voluntary sector.”
118 Encourage mobile working. Also from North Hertfordshire: “We have implemented mobile working, sending benefits assessors etc. to the homes of our customers, meaning it removes the need for them to travel, means documents can be checked in the home rather than sent or brought to the office and officers’ reports are sent back to base electronically. That has already saved us around £70,000, no small amount.”
119 Mystery shopping. Make an arrangement with a neighbouring authority to mystery shop the other authority’s services. This saves money compared to using external companies to carry out this service.
120 Double-sided printing. From West Berkshire Council staff suggestion scheme: “ICT were already on the case and are assessing usage of all printers across WBC. Duplex printers are already in place in some services – it was agreed that the duplex option would be set to mandatory on these to encourage proper use of the printers and save paper. Once the assessment is complete, the services with the largest demand for printing, such as electoral services, benefits and exchequer etc. will be provided with duplex printers first. Also ICT will be replacing old equipment when it breaks with duplex printers where possible.”
121 Chipping felled tree branches and shrubs for footpaths & mulch.
122 Catering administration. From New Forest District Council: “Savings of £16k resulted from the deletion of a catering administration post, with duties being absorbed by other employees. The element of the saving relating to the Council’s staff canteen (pantry) was £3,380 with the balance relating to other establishments, principally leisure facilities.”
123 Joint procurement. Also from the New Forest: “Copier Paper/Furniture – These savings resulted through entering into joint procurement arrangements with Test Valley Borough Council for both photocopier paper and furniture.”
124 Cutting payments by cheque. One council reports: “Traditionally the Council paid its suppliers by cheque. Taking into account the time spent printing and enveloping each payment, the cost of the cheque stationery and the envelope in which it was posted, as well as the actual price of the stamp and the fee from the bank, every time we paid a supplier it would cost roughly 53p. What we’ve now done is moved to BACS as our default method of payment. In the past there were a couple of things which put us off doing this. Firstly, there would be a need to contact our suppliers to find out their bank details and convince them that electronic payment was the way forward. Secondly, in order to minimise subsequent queries, we thought that we would still post remittance advices to the suppliers telling them that payment was on its way – this, of course, would negate some of the saving. However, times have moved on and most suppliers now include bank details on their invoices and request electronic payment. Very often email addresses are printed on invoices as well. All this meant that we could readily move over to BACS payment for very many of our suppliers, with remittance advices sent by email. Obtaining the missing information from other suppliers was simply a question of making a few phone calls. We are now making 83% of our supplier payments by BACS and emailing the remittances. In a year we make around 11,000 payments, so we will now be saving around £4,000 annually”.
125 Have just one phone bill. From Winchester City Council: “The idea: To work with BT to replace the many bills that the Council receives monthly and quarterly for each of its telephones with one single monthly itemised bill supplied either by email or on disk. Results: Reduction in the amount of time taken in administering the payments for each telephone bill and the cost of making the making payment; reduction in the amount of paper used for the bills. Estimated annual saving of about £1,500.”
126 Replace power-sapping screens with cheap Thin Film Transitor screens. From Amber Valley Borough Council: Introduction of TFT screens – reduction in power usage £1,230 per annum.
127 Bite sized training. From Windsor and Maidenhead: “Instead of having external training we now hold internal bite size training events for staff, that are filmed and put on the internal internet site so that staff can view at any time.”
128 Review council-owned car parks with a view to selling them.
129 Rationalising the subscriptions. From Guildford Borough Council: The council recently reviewed its various subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and periodicals. This has saved around £10,000 through rationalisation and increased use of the internet.
130 Provision of website payment facility for Penalty Charge Notices. The website payment facility for parking penalty payments was switched to the system provided by the company supplying the parking enforcement administration system. The new system provides a more reliable and effective system for online payments than the older in-house system which proved to be problematic. The improved quality of service has led to an increase in the number of payments processed electronically (which provides savings on the more costly processing of cash or cheque payments) and allowed staff to concentrate on other duties as opposed to processing payments, calls and enquiries.
131 Fully use “community rooms.” From North Warwickshire District Council: “Under used community rooms – each of our blocks of flats had been allocated a community room for social purposes but it was clear from monitoring the usage patterns that a few were literally never used. After consultation with the residents, some have been returned as single bedroom flats, generating income for the council of approximately £2.5k a year and also reducing the housing waiting list. So far we have converted three back to flats and are looking to convert a further two.”
132 Stop meddling with private nursery schools – eg duplicating checks done by Ofsted.
133 Stop employing “virtual headmasters” for children in care – they prove ineffective – much better to find boarding school places for those children who genuinely have to be in care. (See 11.)
134 Publish corporate credit card use online, in real time. Cut out wasteful and frivolous spending on cards and impose sanctions for those who abuse them.
135 Would it make sense for your council to merge the role of Chief Executive with another? East Hampshire District Council did this successfully with Havant Borough Council.
136 Cut down on how many flights officers and councillors take. Make more use of video conferencing for important meetings.
137 Merge pension funds. Checks fees against performance and other councils.
138 Give high priority to Troubled Families programme. The financial rewards for this extend well beyond the direct financial grant rewards from central government.
139 Publish all spending on suppliers – not just items over £500.
140 Also publish all spending by cost code. This will allow transparency on how much each section of the council is spending. Most spending is on salaries rather than procurement.
141 Make spending transparency intelligible. The Spotlight on Spend system by Spikes Cavell is a good way of doing this. It shows how much it spent on different categories of spending rather than just a list of payments.
142 Don’t inflate the cost of pay-offs by including gagging clauses.
143 Don’t pay mileage rates above the HMRC approved level.
144 Use a Car Club for staff. This has saved Croydon Council half a million pounds.
145 Cut housing waiting lists down to realistic levels. Allowing people on the list with no chance of ever gaining a council tenancy just increases the number of housing officers needed to administer the process and gives people false hopes.
146 Reduce procurement bureaucracy. Make it easier for small firms to pitch.
147 Scrap “Equalities Impact Assessments.”
148 Don’t fund “sock puppets” and “fake charities.” These are campaign groups that survive in large part on taxpayers’ money, rather than donations. They often campaign for even more money to be spent on a pet project. See the Institute of Economic Affairs paper Sock Puppets for more information.
149b Don’t allow staff to use first class train tickets. On the rare occasion a special offer makes first class a cheaper option, sufficient proof should be offered.
150 Keep planning bureaucracy to the statutory minimum.
151 End the practice of social workers spending time demanding foster carers seek approval over children in their care having haircuts, routine health procedures, use of social networking sites, sleep-overs with friends school trips, and holidays with the foster carer.
152 Prioritise “reablement.” This is the process of making practical adjustments which allow the elderly to return to living in their own homes.
153 Prohibit social workers from delaying children in care being placed for adoption on the grounds there is no “ethnic match” available.
154 Stop providing free meals for councillors.
155 Share data with DWP on benefit entitlement to tackle fraud.
156 Encourage staff to offer mutuals. This offers competition for improved service at reduced cost.
157 Cease funding the Chartered Institute for Housing.
158 Cease funding think tanks unnecessarily.
159 Ensure there is no subsidy from the Council Tax payer for services provided to schools. These services should only be offered to schools willing to fully fund them from their school budgets.
160 Encourage trusts to take over allotment sites – reducing running costs and allowing them to be better run.
161 Publish the job titles of all members of staff. This doesn’t need to include salary information but it will give taxpayers and other staff members in the council a sense of the council’s priorities and allow unnecessary jobs to be rooted out.
162 Use credit checks to establish illegal subletting in council properties – freeing up these properties would reduce the cost of temporary accommodation.
163 Use of telecare to provide more independence to older people.
164 Energy bill transparency. Smart metering has cut bills in Windsor and Maidenhead.
165 Bringing in Statutory Sick Pay for the first three days of sickness absence.
166 Improving digital communications can save staff time. For instance, providing a subscription service for email alerts means residents can indicate the sort of thing they are interested in. Parents will be interested in school closures, motorists will be interested in road closures, etc. This means that fewer residents will call help lines unnecessarily.
167 Fund the voluntary sector through commissioning – something for something – rather than grants – something for nothing.
168 Maximise transparency of council papers on the council website to reduce the cost of Freedom of Information requests. The more information that is available via “self-serving”, the less the administrative burden.
169 Don’t spend money on youth gimmicks such as youth parliaments. Instead look at initiatives that don’t really cost money. Hosting school debating competitions at the town hall, for instance – which can also provide a positive opportunity for children from state and independent schools to mix. These can be organised by the schools themselves without employment of Youth Workers.
170 Take part in Social Impact Bonds. With these Bonds, people are able to invest in social projects and be paid a return from the taxpayer if the projects are successful.
171 More houseboats to increase mooring fees and help maximise the New Homes Bonus.
172 Cease spending money installing road humps.
173 It may be sensible to reduce the number of traffic lights. As well as improving traffic flow this will reduce costs.
174 Review terms and conditions for the workforce to look at finding savings and greater flexibility.
175 If you have them, scrap chauffeur driven cars for council leaders and mayors.
176 End automatic pay rises for staff.
177 Allow paying for parking by mobile phone. This reduces the need to collect money from the machines every day, and makes the whole process easier.
178 Incentives for recycling – for example vouchers can be negotiated with local retailers. Windsor & Maidenhead have offered Marks and Spencer vouchers in the past.
179 Make consultations shorter and cheaper – and real.
180 Provide council tenants with rewards for carrying out their own repairs.
181 Scrap “Localities Programme”. Councils operating these tend to duplicate the work of others and that means an extra layer of management. It is extra cost on top of those in children’s services departments providing practical benefits.
182 Scrap clothing allowances for mayors, their spouses or any other staff.
183 Offer an interactive iPhone application which allows residents to access services residents can report up to 45 different issues such as a missed bin collection or broken streetlight, ‘Find my nearest’, which locates amenities such as libraries and parks using GPS signals, news, events, jobs and a postcode-driven bin calendar. This lowers administration costs (it costs £1.50 less to process an iPhone enquiry compared to telephone contacts).
184 Personalisation of adult social care saves money on staff and allows users decide for themselves what services suit their needs.
185 Withdraw funding for speed cameras.
186 Investigate savings through bulk purchasing rather than using endless different suppliers at various prices for the same product. Haringey Council once bought bottled water from 14 different companies.
187 Where there are genuine “invest to save” opportunities, for instance in reducing energy bills or increasing online transactions, then use council reserves.
188 Reduce the number of councillors.
189 Don’t spend any money on town twinning.
190 Don’t spend any money seeking design advice from the modernist Commission for the Built Environment (CABE.)
191 Cease providing private health care for senior bureaucrats.
192 Don’t just renew contracts. Retender.
193 Encourage staff to buy and water their pot plants on a voluntary basis rather than paying contractors to do this
194 Avoid meddling bylaws which involve increased staff costs to enforce.
195 Don’t pay membership subs for the planning officers’ trade union, the Royal Town Planning Institute.
196 If care homes are under-occupied, close some of them.
197 Quality Assurance arrangements for adult social care: at Hammersmith and Fulham this performance management makes sure that our social workers are up to the job and that the process is effective. Introducing it has saved £1 million and improved the service to vulnerable.
198 Don’t advertise for jobs in Guardian when you really do need to recruit – use your council website instead.
199 Review council-owned garages. Where under-used look to sell, lease or redevelop.
200 Keep under review what services are offered. Changes can occur for a number of reasons – demographic factors and trends, legislative change, new alternative services provided from elsewhere, and changes in residents’ preferences.
201 Stop producing leaflets for silly reasons, like Tameside’s walking guide that included instructions for staff on what posture to adopt when walking.