Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chiefs predict service area cuts (from UK Libraries)

I worked in the CIPFA Library when I was in London in 1993 - I'll bet by the sound of this, there is no Corporate Library in that organisation now! Read below:

17 September 2009 | By James Illman

Adult social care, planning and library services are those most likely to be provided at lower levels in the future, council chiefs have predicted.

Nearly a third (27%) of upper-tier respondents to the LGC/Liberata Future of Local Government Survey predicted their council would only be able to supply library services at “absolute minimum service level” over the next five years.

Forty per cent of upper-tier respondents said that levels of adult social care would be “a little less than now” while 42% of district council chiefs expected planning services would be provided at below current levels.

Both the Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy were swift to draw a distinction between actual cuts and scenario planning.

LGA director of finance and improvement Stephen Jones said: “The survey shows that local authorities are engaging in some very responsible scenario planning, but there is a very big difference between scenario planning and actual decisions. A lot of these decisions will be political and taken by elected members.”

CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer echoed Mr Jones’ sentiments. “Closing or curtailing library services may look like an easy option for officers but elected members may take a different view,” he warned.

LGA improvement board chair and Leicestershire CC leader David Parsons (Con) called for councils officers to show “imagination” to avoid slashing frontline services.

“What we want is imagination at the top of local government,” said Cllr Parsons. “I do not know if cuts are necessary or not, but we want to see councils innovating rather than just cutting.”Cllr Parsons said that libraries were a good example of a service that could be used more innovatively.

“In Leicestershire we are looking at providing more services, including health and police, through our libraries. We have had one of the largest expansions of library services in the country.”

Meanwhile, an upper-tier/district council split was evident when respondents were asked who they thought would be delivering services in their area in five years’ time.

Three-quarters of district chiefs said they foresaw non-public-facing functions such as HR and IT services being carried out “with another local authority”, while 22% thought they would be outsourced.

However, more than double (50%) that proportion of upper-tier respondents thought these services would be outsourced, with 37% of this group predicting that such back-office functions would be shared with another council.

Mr Freer urged councils to move swiftly to get the most of shared options. “Shared services take time to put in place,” he warned.

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