Local Government Strategies in an Age of Austerity

by Colin R. Talbot and Carole L. Talbot[1] University of Manchester

Originally published in a CIPFA/PMPA pamphlet here (April 2011). Some of the data may be slightly dated, but the thrust of the argument remains valid and even more topical as a fresh round of 10% local government cuts in 2015-16 has been announced.

Local government in England is faced with probably the biggest challenges it has had since at least the end of World War II, if not longer. Not only is it facing front-loaded cuts to its income of an unprecedented scale, but the demand for services, especially for the elderly, continue to rise and in many areas the return of mass unemployment, especially amongst young people, threatens new problems. Continue reading

Lord O’Donnell Suggests …. that someone rather like him should be put in charge of vetting government policy. Seriously?

Lord O’Donnell, former head of the civil service, has put forward some ideas for better scrutiny of proposed government policies. According to a report in Civil Service World:

Among ideas to prevent “bad policies” from being introduced, [O’Donnell] said a new Office of Taxpayer Responsibility (OTR) should assess policies, requiring the government to specify their objectives and explain how success would be measured. Continue reading

Top Twenty Whitehall Watch blog posts

Here’s the top twenty Whitehall Watch blog posts (so far) and the number of views. This doesn’t include numbers for posts that have been republished by Public Finance, Public Servant, LSE Policy and Politics and the Huffington Post. Continue reading

Dave says we’re headed in the right direction, what do you think?

PM David Cameron claims we are ‘headed in the right direction’. Below are the latest headline figures from the Office of National Statistics website on the state of our national finances (so all their words, not mine, I’ve just added a few helpful highlights):

Latest figures (Nov 2011)

  • Public sector net borrowing was £17.5 billion in November 2012; this is £1.2 billion higher net borrowing than in November 2011, when net borrowing was £16.3 billion.
  • Public sector current budget deficit was £15.8 billion in November 2012; this is a £1.0 billion higher deficit than in November 2011, when there was a deficit of £14.8 billion.
  • For the period April to November 2012, public sector net borrowing (excluding the capital payment recorded as part of the Royal Mail Pension Plan transfer in April 2012) was £92.7 billion; this is £8.3 billion higher net borrowing than in the same period the previous year, when net borrowing was £84.4 billion.
  • In 2011/12, public sector net borrowing was £121.6 billion; this is £4.4 billion lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasted net borrowing for 2011/12 of £126.0 billion.
  • Public sector net debt was £1083.6 billion at the end of November 2012, equivalent to 68.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

As far as I can see the only ‘positive’ in this is that public sector net borrowing was less than the OBR forecast, but it was still higher than the previous year.

’You Can’t Borrow Your Way Out of a Debt Crisis’. Er, actually you can Mr Osborne. It depends….

One of George Osborne’s favourite mantra’s is the above one. Unfortunately it’s based on a rather school-boy understanding of economics.
Of course everyone is familiar with the personal debt spiral. Adam and Eve enjoy the good life. They spend a bit more than they earn and make up the difference with credit card debt. Once they’ve maxed out their credit cards they start taking out pay-day loans at exorbitant interest. Before you know it their mole-hill of debt has turned into a mountain and they have no way out except bankruptcy and/or years of austerity. Continue reading

#London2012: Private Schools and Public Sports (or how I got humiliated at rugby)

 

The disproportionate representation of UK private schools (confusingly called ‘public schools’) amongst Britain’s Olympians has been causing some controversy.

For some on the right this highlights the superiority of private sector schooling over state provision – especially as a lot of money has supposedly gone into promoting sports in the public sector. Continue reading