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Wiltshire fails to get on Pickles' "Can do" list

June 16, 2011 9:51 PM
By DCLG release edited by Trevor Carbin

Eric Pickles MP on Question TimeLocal Government Secretary Eric Pickles has praised three 'can do' councils who are acting to protect frontline services and local council tax payers.

Adur in Sussex have set up a partnership working scheme with Worthing by sharing services and a single Chief Executive and management team. Four years on they have made procurement savings of £2 million and revenue savings of over £3 million, lowering their base budgets by £2.5 million whilst protecting services. This included over £1 million through sharing services. In 2009-10 they started saving £652,000 a year from sharing refuse and recycling, street cleansing, financial services, legal and democratic services, corporate services, and customer services. And last year (10/11) further savings of £350,000 a year were made by extending the arrangement to planning, parks, IT, building surveying, and environmental health.

This is the kind of cost-saving activity Wiltshire district councils were looking at before being swallowed up by the inefficient new Wiltshire Council.

Bury Council has taken steps to reduce blue badge fraud. A recent check found that 67.8% of blue badges issued by the council belonged to persons found to be deceased. Bury introduced a new permit application procedure aiming to cut down on fraud and to save taxpayers at least £4,000 a year. Mr P. didn't point out that being buried in Bury won't get you a badge, whereas being in wheelchair in Wiltshire will.

Cornwall Council is showing quick action can make a difference to finances. Within a week of the Comprehensive Spending Review councillors had agreed £170 million of savings over four years with £9 out of every £10 coming from efficiencies involving senior management, properties and duplication. Services to vulnerable people and essential services were given protection. Up to £10 million of the savings were identified from the pay bill. This included a Chief Executive pay cut and an elected Members' vote to reduce allowances by 23 per cent.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

"Adur, Bury, Cornwall - that's an ABC of can do councils protecting the services their communities value with creative thinking. There are many more showing residents and councils that where there is a will there is a way for local authorities to keep taxes down and protect frontline services. It leaves me in no doubt that local communities have the talent and initiative to harness the new powers coming their way.

"Driving down the nation's deficit is the Government's biggest priority but we have made sure that extra money is available to protect the public from council tax rises offering real help to hard working families and pensioners. The new localism powers and spending freedoms we are handing councils will help them be as efficient and effective as possible."