West lancs services to be slashed in budget?

Bill Taylor, the Chief Executive of West Lancs Council writes occasionally in the localgov website. He writes the following in his latest article District View: Has CPA had its day?

I argued in this column recently that the days of step change improvement are finished, finito, gone for the foreseeable future – the notion that across the piece we can get substantially more for less is plainly ‘tosh’; (obviously we will continue to seek to make efficiency gains when we can but these are not going to bridge the massive financial gaps in councils budgets).

We are, therefore, in a period of retrenchment where services will have to be reduced particularly in non-priority/statutory areas. (my emphasis)

The Council is drafting it’s budget for 09/10 which will be announced in next month’s meeting. Bill leaves us with no doubt that there will be cuts – and gives a good idea where they will be. If he’s citing non-statutory, then I expect big cuts in leisure.

What’s more worrying is that he cites “non-priority areas”. This is arm-waving stuff, what’s a priority today could be dropped tomorrow if they don’t like it. Certainly the Tories in West Lancs have never liked being involved with improving health – they see it as something for the PCT to do. They tried dropping the doctor referral scheme a couple of years ago (and then brought it back after an outcry). I expect that they’ll try something similar again this year.

For the Chief Exec to say that there isn’t any further scope for step change improvement shows how low the Council’s ambition has sunk. To dismiss the idea so glibly has to be a concern to all Council Tax payers in the District and I hope he is put on the spot about it at forthcoming meetings.

From mySociety: Top 5 Internet Priorities for the Next Government (any next Government)

Came across this article at the mysociety blog this evening (when reading up about the history of the data retention laws). I’ve mentioned before about the “free our bills” campaign that mysociety are running  and this extends that vision to the next step of using the internet as an enabling tool for citizens interacting with Government.

Great stuff. Briefly, they suggest the following:

  1. Hire yourself some staff who know what the Internet really means for government, and fund a university to start training more who really understand both worlds: you’re going to need them. There just aren’t enough employed in any government anywhere yet to save you from being hopelessly outstripped by external progress. (note to self I must write to our MP about it)

  2. Free your data, especially maps and other geographic information, plus the non-personal data that drives the police, health and social services, for starters. Introduce a ‘presumption of innovation’ – if someone has asked for something costly to free up, give them what they want: it’s probably a sign that they understand the value of your data when you don’t.

  3. Give external parties the right to interface electronically with any government or mainly public system unless it can be shown to create substantial, irrevocable harm. Champion the right fiercely and punish unjustified refusals with fines.

  4. Commission the world’s first system capable of large scale deliberation, and hold a couple of nation wide sessions on policy areas that you genuinely haven’t made your minds up on yet.

  5. When people use your electronic systems to do anything, renew a fishing license, register a pregnancy, apply for planning permission, given them the option to collaborate with other people going through or affected by the same process. They will feel less alone, and will help your services to reform from the bottom up.

Extra £400,000 investment in West Lancs roads

I rarely quote press releases in full, but this will make a big difference in West Lancs. There are some parts of the District that really need some additional investment in the roads and this is welcome.

From the Lancashire County Council website:

News : Extra £400,000 for West Lancashire’s Highways

WEST LANCASHIRE’S highways are set for a major overhaul following extra investment from Lancashire County Council.

The county council recently awarded an extra £415,350 to carry out additional maintenance and repair works in West Lancashire. This is on top of the £3.5 million the council already planned to invest in the area.

Lancashire Local – West Lancashire has now agreed how the cash will be spent and road safety, pedestrians, crime reduction and highway resurfacing projects will all receive extra investment.

County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, Cabinet member for sustainable development, explained: “I am delighted that the county council has been able to allocate an extra £5million for highways in Lancashire and that West Lancashire is receiving a large part of the cash.

“Thanks to this an extra 21 schemes will be carried out this year. These are jobs that would not otherwise have got done this financial year, but our local highway team are now able to make some real progress.?

County Councillor David O’Toole, chair of Lancashire Local – West Lancashire, said: “It is very good news, not only that this money has been found, but also that the county council has handed the money over to local councillors to make the decisions on exactly where it is spent. As a county councillor for West Lancashire, and chair of the Lancashire Local, this is a step in the right direction that has allowed us to take control and tackle some of the longer standing projects that we simply didn’t have the money to pay for.?

Good Luck, LabourList

Catching up with things, and the new labourlist.org site looks like it is one of the more interesting / useful left additions to the blogosphere in a long time. It’s early days, but the posts so far are thoughtful and interesting.

Most interestingly, they have started out with a straightforward and clear comment moderation policy which, to me, makes a lot of sense. The key bit for me:

we will also place other comments judged to be grossly unintelligent or obtuse or trolls in our trash can.

makes clear that they want to stimulate debate and not the usual rants associated with other high-profile political blogs. Comments are still visible if you click on the trash can, but the site normally just shows relevant discussion.

Good luck to Derek Draper, et. al. It’s going to be a very difficult two or three years for the left regardless of any elections and this is a welcome addition to the online left.