Thursday, August 18, 2011
Glasgow Labour Council dip into the ‘piggie bank’ after Council admits budget shortfall as targets aren’t met, poor financial management cripples city
Next year sees Council elections all over Scotland but the key election is Glasgow, the heart of the Labour Party fiefdom.
Taking Glasgow from the Labour Party is a milestone on the road to an independent Scotland.
But it is no easy task for any political party, Labour have been the absolute rulers in the city for decades.
Any political party seeking control needs to have a good narrative and the people who will work to secure changes that are need with the Council.
Local government public sector reform is arguable the most important task over the next five years.
And there is no appetite by Glasgow Labour Councillors to deliver that change, in fact any changes previously could be argued as being more about charging the cash flow of Labour councillors rather than serving the people.
The ALEO scandal set up by Steven ‘bin laden’ Purcell, the ‘ex President’ of Glasgow City Council who fell from grace, he used the Aleo system as a means of political patronage in the city.
Some councillors effectively doubled their salary by taking on directorships of Aleo, the amounts of cash varied from £6k to £20k.
With the cuts agenda on the horizons, the Labour controlled council isn’t doing well under its new leader Gordon ‘free dinners’ Matheson.
The proof of that ‘pudding’ is the news that Labour controlled Glasgow City Council will be accessing emergency funds in order to cover shortfalls this year.
The Glasgow Labour Party treats the city council as their private club.
So, Glasgow is raiding the ‘piggie bank’ called the Council’s “Service Reform Contingency Fund”.
It seems that the problem stems from efficiency targets not being met.
Officials at Scotland’s largest local authority had budgeted for £5 million savings over two years, £1.5m this year and £3.5m in 2012-13. This was to be done by using reforms to services. However; rather than being radical, they took the line of least resistance and opted for measures that included changes to staff terms and conditions.
Instead the agenda should have been how to use the public sector to generate cash by being pro active instead of reactive and waiting for people to come to them.
And this is a problem in most Council departments, they get their budgets and spend it, no real though exists to generate money because it isn’t part of their remit as far as they are concerned.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds are paid to executives and we are told we are paying for top talent but this is an image that the public sees.
SNP Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Allison Hunter said:
“The news that the Council will fail to make its savings target for this financial year tells a tale of poor financial management. At this year’s budget meeting the SNP called for a full review of the Council’s finances to ensure a stable future in these difficult times for council budgets. Labour confidently predicted that savings would be found this year and it is this which has brought today’s revelation.”
Ms Hunter claimed that the admission has left Council employees and Unions worried about what the impact will mean and added:
“Employee annual leave and holiday entitlements are in question, as well as support to staff for disclosure checks vital for their work. How can employees be confident in the administration and how can Glasgow citizens be reassured that the difficulties today will not become worse next year? It really is time for Labour to get a grip of this situation and steer the Council’s finances back to a more stable position.”
Cuts will not be the only solution; councils must learn to generate money like commercial businesses by selling services that people and organisations want.
There must be more inter council sharing of services and new models of operation brought forward.
But changing and reforming the public sector will be painful, they will be a cost, just like there will be a cost when the new single national police force comes on line.
It is an unhappy fact of life that things have to be stripped down before they grow back up again.
Money has been poured into the local government sector but the public don’t see much benefit.
It is like there has developed a whole raft of people who shuffle paper about that has no meaning to ordinary citizens.
Too many managers are earning hefty salaries when councillors should be asking hard questions of them and what they are going to make people’s lives better.
In the money stakes, almost two thirds of the £10m Service Reform Contingency Fund has been has spent to date.
This leaves only £2.1m of the Service Reform reserve for the rest of the financial year to April 2012.
Councils need to make local government reform a priority so that departments can have a better financial base and be able to build substantial cash reserves.
And that type of change cannot come from the Labour Party; they turn over the council to the executive officers, a long time ago.
They are just like club members who have a voice in the running of the club instead of being the management running the thing.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University