It'll look alright when it is washed

30 Sep 2009 by Karl Hallam

There is a barber in Liverpool with a sign above his shop that says 'it'll look alright when it is washed'. How will local authorities look in a few years after their cuts? How are local authorities preparing for cuts in their budgets? How should they prepare and is there a smart way to make cuts? Should departments be selling themselves and making sure everyone knows what great work they are doing and how they are ‘delivering on so many agendas' (one of them is always obesity).

Whether it is the zero budgeting approach that Canada's government used to reduce their deficit or budget deconstruction exercises there is always going to be a danger that strategic plans go out of the window when the political crunch decisions have to be made. You wouldn't know it by the way the popular media cover these issues, but is local councillors who will decide where the cuts will be. Many will be tempted to go for X% budget cuts across all departments instead of taking the kind of strategic approach many are trying to develop at the moment. They'll do that for what seem like reasonable reasons, simple and fair for example, but they could be missing an opportunity to do things differently.

The Total Place pilots are getting some coverage for encouraging early results leading to suggestions theme based departments might be a good idea and therefore budgets? In  the week when the ex-department DIUS, very much a themed department (innovation etc) is being criticised for wasted spending on websites this does not seem quite so revelatory. So how about outcomes based budgeting?

Many in the public sector will look to the Conservative conference for some clues on their intended approach to this issue.


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