It can be done (lower taxes, less debt and better services)
Tim Montgomerie writes:
Tory leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh has written for today's Sunday Telegraph about best practice in local government. It is a distillation of a longer analysis he has written for the Centre for Policy Studies; The New Good Council Guide.
Here are Cllr Greenhalgh's key conclusions:
"Average council taxes in H&F are now £350 lower than they would have been had the council maintained the previous rate of increase under Labour. Despite significant cost pressures on local government, our relentless pursuit of value for money has meant that we have cut council spending by £7 million (or 4 per cent) in cash terms, cut the workforce by 18 per cent (or 950 full-time equivalent employees) and cut the council's debt by £20 million.
At the same time, services have improved significantly. High-profile, round-the-clock beat policing has been introduced and paid for by the council - there were 2,000 fewer recorded crimes this year. Street-cleaning services and council estates are being improved."
His article discusses cuts in communication budgets, sacking of political advisers, compulsory tendering of inhouse council services and a particular commitment to provide better services for low income families.
Earlier this week Cllr Nigel Fletcher discussed life as an opposition. Cllr Greenhalgh noted its importance for what his administration is now doing:
"My political career is based on a solid foundation of failure: I was in opposition for more than 10 years, and all my time was spent talking to local people and getting to know the issues that mattered to them. Opposition gave us the time and space to develop our policies and to communicate them."