The BBC’s lazy council cuts story

The BBC survey of 49 local authorities has been widely reported with the headline of ‘cuts’. The survey is shallow and the reporting sloppy. A waste of money from an organisation that itself needs to operate much more efficiently.

Shock findings: Councils are going to be at the hard end of reductions in public spending over the next three to five years. Non statutory services will face the biggest squeeze

Sloppy reporting: If we aggregate up the responses to our naff survey we can come up with big numbers that our editors will like, especially if they relate to ‘job losses’ ‘cutbacks’ ‘axe’ ‘under threat’

The real numbers are actually bigger than the ones the BBC suggests and if they took the trouble to do a quick bit of googling research they could have found them. The recent CIPFA paper, which I blogged about, profiles 15% to 30% reductions in local governments cost base. Note that I say reduction in cost base. To just say ‘cuts’ is a fatalistic and flawed approach. Yes there will be cuts, we have to be realistic and honest about that. But what we have to focus on is how to make services more efficient and effective, such as through a greater emphasis on prevention, so that what the public see are services and more importantly the social outcomes, getting better even at a time of financial constraint. I’d like the BBC to put equal effort into looking into this aspect of the debate, and then it would actually be doing something useful.

    1. Steve says:

      Does this mean that the now abysmal record local authorities have for keeping the streets clean will get worse.

      Local authorities sre still unable to ensure the very basics are done correctly.

      1. Andy Sawford says:

        The financial squeeze shouldn’t be used as an excuse for poor services. Councils know that keeping the streets clean is seen as a core responsibility and it has a big impact on satisfaction levels and, more importantly, on the quality of people’s lives. But even this should be part of our debate. The council doesn’t drop the litter, spit the gum, fly tip and vandalise. Promoting behaviour change is an important part of reshaping services and rethinking the role of the state.

    2. John Bell says:

      I agree we need to make services more efficient and effective, however 30% cuts mean cutting services completely not being more efficient in their delivery. That is frontline services, which aren’t seen as being core, will stop.

    3. Ben Proctor says:

      While I agree with the points you make maybe we should celebrate, just a little, the fact that as part of this project the Beeb, at least in the Midlands, organised local debates on “cuts”. The reduction of the cost base is going to lead to local politicians being faced with proper difficult choices. The more debate there is at a local level the better the quality of these choices is likely to be.

    Comments are closed.