A Hard Look at Why Dozens of Local Authorities are Collapsing in the UK – John Gelmini

A map of the West Midlands, showing the Metrop...

A map of the West Midlands, showing the Metropolitan Boroughs: (1) Wolverhampton; (2) Dudley; (3) Walsall; (4) Sandwell; (5) Birmingham; (6) Solihull; and (7) Coventry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I reblogged a powerful article in the Guardian entitled: Dozens of local councils close to collapse, says MPs’ committee | Society | The Guardian. I received a robust response from John Gelmini which I am reblogging below.

Personally, I fully endorse John’s viewpoint here. Indeed when I first started blogging I wrote a detailed blog about the inner workings of Local Authority decision-making. The blog entitled: UK Local Authorities and Shared Services: Cost Cutting – Myths,Realities and Escalating Risks? has been one of my most popular blogs with a large number of hits. Interestingly, I also received a detailed response from John Gelmini at that time which I reblogged entitled: UK Local Authorities and Shared Services: Cost-Cutting – Myths, Realities and Escalating Risks? Response – Addressing the Social and Political Context with Radical Reform/ Transformation.

Anyway, returning to the current thread, here is John’s latest viewpoint:

Why Dozens of Local Authorities are Collapsing in the UK – John Gelmini 

Without the ability of clairvoyance, I have been predicting this since 2010.

There are simply too many local authorities, just twelve county unitary authorities are needed for England, not forty-three and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland need one each.

Districts and Boroughs should have been abolished years ago and their functions outsourced to reputable providers.

I was rubbished for saying this by a number of LinkedIn posters and accused of ranting, so now the chickens have really come home to roost with a vengeance.

Adult Social Care costs are now running at 50% of County Council budgets and with the 1.25 million woman aged 65 plus with early stage dementia that figure is rising at the same time as Local Authority Minister Eric Pickles and Chancellor Osborne are squeezing Standard Spending Assessments and just before the Romanians and Bulgarians arrive.

I predict now that a number of Local Authority care homes will close and councils will, like Pontius Pilate, wash their hands of them by sending them home for relatives to look after them. Some of these care home recipients will die and private care home operators already squeezed by Local Authorities will get rid of benefit recipients who cannot make up the shortfall or whose relatives refuse to do so.

People who think it is someone else’s job to care for these people are in for a very rude awakening and not before time.

The luxury of separate call centers for general enquiries, Adult Social Care, the Police and Fire Commands will have to give way to large Shared Service Centers (CSC) of the type for which I drew up blueprints in 2008/2009; finance functions and a lot of administration can be outsourced to India; and the number of council CEOs reduced to just 12.

Junketing by council officials, misusing RIPA to investigate dog fouling, holding up planning consent for legitimate and necessary business expansion, imposing car parking charges which destroy local businesses, spying to see where someone lives for the purposes of establishing what school catchment area they live in, appointing relatives and mistresses to key posts, engaging in skullduggery on the golf course and making key and often wrong decisions in secret are all activities that need to be brought to an end if this impending train wreck is to be mitigated.

There will be trouble because people are not going to pay hundreds of pounds every month for non-existent services or greatly reduced ones.

We are in for a long, possibly hot Summer of discontent in the UK.

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44 responses

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  34. Alf and John,

    A local authority employee once described his job to me as “Dole money for middle class people”. I understood this to mean that he thought that his colleagues achieved very little in their jobs.

    I beg to differ.

    My experience as an interim manager in many local authorities has been characterised by hard working colleagues who wish to deliver great services. Their problem from my experience is:

    1. The definition of what a great service is changed every six months or so
    2. The resources they are allocated are unpredictable and at worst just plain random and
    3. The timescales they are given to effect change are driven by central government political whims.

    In that environment it is a miracle that any of our local authorities deliver anything.

    I also disagree with John’s penultimate paragraph. He said “skullduggery on the golf course and making key … decisions in secret are all activities that need to be brought to an end”. In the current circumstances, these activities may be the only way to be effective in a local authority.

    So how could the situation be improved?

    Here are some suggestions from me:

    1. Cut the ties between local and national government, to encourage local autonomy and responsibility for setting standards and delivering services
    2. Insist on local funding for local services to create an affordability ethic. This would mean changing the balance between income tax and local taxes
    3. Create roles for full time, professional, paid, elected political governance. I think it would also help if the senior political and management leadership lived in the area they were managing.

    Have a great week.

    Adam.

    • Adam,

      Many thanks for your thoughtful suggestions.

      I very much endorse your views that day-to-day efficiency is severely distorted by politicians meddling and changing priorities and direction.

      For me, there is an overwhelming case to outsource all central and local government operational activities; indeed they can be off-shored too if there are no security implications. Any thoughts?

      Alf

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