If City Hall can find efficiencies, so can Whitehall


Today has seen announcements by two praiseworthy councils that, dare I say it, strike of innovative cost cutting.

Birmingham City council has shown that “I can reduce redundancies and cut costs” need not be a contradiction. The plan is simple, as Conservative Home explains:

Suppose you have person A in a necessary job retires and person B who wishes to continue in employment but is in a post that is being scrapped. Rather than recruit a new person for the necessary job and make the person redundant for the post being scrapped you redeploy person B to take over from person B.

Not only are there fewer redundancies, the costs of hiring from outside and making person B redundant are eliminated altogether. Taxpayers and council workers both win.

Hammersmith and Fulham’s efficiencies are somewhat different, gained by scrapping unnecessarily burdensome regulation. The council estimates that simplifying the planning system, removing the licence needed to pierce an ear and shredding the 10-page form requiring filing by any school wishing to hold events featuring music, amongst others, would save £200 million were they implemented across the country.

These innovations, good in themselves, are important for two further reasons. First, they lend support to one of the strongest arguments for localism and the breaking up of our centralised state; that smaller bodies are generally better at generating good ideas than sluggish monoliths. Second, they suggest that those busy thrusting bleeding stumps into the face of anyone suggesting ‘cuts’ doth protest too much. If one council can locate £200 million of efficiencies in the small, £4bn Local Government budget, just think of the savings a diligent Treasury official could find. Contrary to what the some in the media might think, nothing like 100% of the impending budget cuts need come from frontline services.