Advice for the party's three hundred new councillors
Yesterday we published some excellent advice from Wakefield's Cllr Mike Walker. He offered great advice on how you can keep a new ward in the blue column.
Because of last Friday there are three hundred or so new Tory councillors and they won't be short of advice over coming weeks. John Gummer, writing for Platform 10, is offering to put his Quality of Life group at new councillors' disposal. Write to him, he says, and he'll offer weekly advice on talking green - "the universal language". See here for more.
John Redwood MP is concerned that new Conservative councillors are truly Conservative. This is what he wrote on his blog at the weekend:
"The most important pledge Conservative candidates made in most parts of the country was the pledge to keep the Council Tax down. So in those budget meetings for next year when officers tell them they need a large hike in the Council Tax for a “standstill” budget, Councillors should explain that this simply is neither true nor realistic. On taking office this May, Council Groups should impose staff freezes on administrative staff, and start to manage the numbers down. They should gain control over any decision to appoint external consultants, making sure when there are staff in the Council office who should and could do the job that they do it. They should review all the new initiatives and projects with an eye to suitability and cost."
If you want a good guide to getting costs under control we recommend Cllr Harry Phibbs' 100 questions councillors should ask their officers. Harry is part of Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative-controlled council and that council has cut council tax for the last two years. Here are ten of Harry's questions:
- Please could you send me a list of the bodies we give grants to and the amounts?
- Please could you advise me what the Council's total annual spending is for a) Postage and b) Printing?
- How many empty Council homes (or ALMO homes) do we currently have? How many have been empty for more than six months? Have we considered selling those we can't afford to repair?
- What is our level of rent arrears?
- Could we install energy saving bulbs to our street lamps?
- What encouragement do we give to voluntary gardening assistance in our parks and public spaces?
- What consideration do we give to "designing out crime" on our estates?
- What is the total cost to the Council in interest payments on our debt is each year?
- How much do we spend on fees for our staff to attend conferences each year?
- How many staff are employed on a full time or part time basis to perform trade union duties and what is the total cost?