Public Money is not FREE money – don’t waste it!


Avoid Unnecessary Consultancy

Central govt has spent a fortune over the years on management consultancy, PR etc. The Guardian says "An official report published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) on the day of the Budget in March, said that government departments and quangos spent around £1.5bn on professional consultancy in 2008-09". Now, I hope things have improved since then but I suspect both central and local govt are still spending far too much.

There may be times when it is essential to get expert opinion BUT for most of the time, if a senior manager doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to do the job then perhaps they are in the wrong position! The above Guardian article goes on to suggest a regional 'talent pool' of in-house consultants may be useful.

As one example, a Bristol City Council (BCC) document published on 29th June 2012 talks of "...consultancy costs (totalling £1,565,000)…" for an ELENA project (that's 'European Local ENergy Assistance') for a low carbon investment programme. Low carbon programmes sound great but £1.5 million on consultancy sounds a great deal and the report included above states "Our report ... should not be relied upon to detect all opportunities for improvements in management arrangements that might exist. The Council should assess the wider implications of our conclusions and recommendations before deciding whether to accept or implement them, seeking its own specialist advice as appropriate. We accept no responsibility in the event that any third party incurs claims, or liabilities, or sustains loss, or damage, as a result of their having relied on anything contained within this report." So, if the Council needs to rely on its own 'specialist advice', why spend £1.5 million on consultancy?

An article from 5th July 2012 about Somerset Country Council ends with "That a council has to employ consultants to help it carry out its job shows an obvious lack of administrative skills at its heart".


"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it"

Some projects seem to be simply unnecessary. Some simple examples can be seen in local road planning:

  • where working traffic lights systems are set to be replaced (eg Shirehampton Rd x Sylvan Way)
  • where efficient two lane exits have been squashed into single lanes causing unnecessary delays (eg Sylvan Way onto Portway)
  • where large concrete pavement extensions squeeze traffic dangerously close and make what used to be easy, good visibility junctions more difficult to navigate (eg Coldharbour Rd x Howard Rd and Stoke Lane x Reedley Rd)
  • where concrete is placed mid-road restricting traffic and in some places making it much more dangerous (eg the large islands added between the roundabout and bus stop at White Tree Roundabout).
I suspect there are a lot more like this around Bristol. [see also Keep Bristol moving]

In these days – with the country £ billions in debt and council taxes too high – I believe that working systems should not be replaced until they need to be. When the opportunity arises, some of the above changes (eg excessive concrete cluttering the roadspace) could be un-done to make traffic flow more easily and more safely.

In these days – with the country £ billions in debt and council taxes too high – I believe that working systems should not be replaced until they need to be. When the opportunity arises, some of the above changes (eg excessive concrete cluttering the roadspace) could be un-done to make traffic flow more easily and more safely.


Don’t Out-Source Ongoing Needs

There may be times when specific short-term expertise is needed but, generally, where there is some ongoing need (eg care for the elderly; also health & education, of course), it cannot make sense to out-source, paying over the odds to provide profit for owners and managers who may use unskilled labour to keep their profits up. A better, and in the long-run cheaper, service can be provided by Council staff – with more careful supervision than currently exists to give the necessary protection and dignity to the elderly and infirm.

See also E-petition 1904 and the earlier E-petition 1572. I may not agree with opposition to all cuts (we may not have a realistic choice) but see also Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance


Don’t Keep Borrowing (from the future)!

The country is £billions in debt because, during the good times, the Govt didn’t put anything aside for a rainy day. Now it’s raining and we still have to pay it all back ... with interest! About £43 billion per year!

Local Councils should live within their means too.

The free 'Bristol Reporter – Summer 2012', states that our Lib Dem Council "have found £50 million" – where did they find it? And why didn't they find it before? Do not think that I am anti-LibDems; I think they have done a brilliant job in increasing the personal tax threshold, with plans to raise it to £10,000. I am just a bit surprised that they've 'found' all this money just before a major election.

Similarly, I am glad when they say that 800 "of the lowest earning city council workers (most of them part-time staff)" will get a boost – but would that have happened if there hadn't been an election coming soon and what about the long-term future?

This article makes you wonder if the money was borrowed? If so, we'll all be paying it back for some time to come.

I believe a longer term strategy for a fairer distribution of wealth is required – see Reduce the Gap Between Rich and Poor.