Thursday, 22 August 2013

Scrutiny and Savings

Saving Council taxpayers money given the extravagant waste under this Medway Conservative administration must be a priority for any incoming Medway Labour administration.

Every resident is now aware of the ‘botched’ bus station, ‘dodgy deal’ Medway Tunnel, Strood Civic Centre ‘blackhole’, the Stoke ‘bridge to nowhere’ and the infamous Chatham ‘one-way no way’ madness which saw the demolition of the Sir John Hawkins Flyover. This is not including the copious overspends on school projects.

Cllr Vince Maple is aware of the challenge; he has rightly highlighted and pushed on why our hardworking residents should be sanctioning a spend of £4.4m on Rochester Airport fliers when our roads are mired in pot-holes and our Sure Starts suffering cuts.

I have also raised as a backbench opposition Councillor my concern about how the Council try to conceal original budget estimates. 

Every time a capital spend report comes into our review committee process the officers have notably not included the original budgeted cost for any scheme. Instead they include any agreed increased figure after ‘Council’ review and award themselves a smiley face as a result. A smiley face rewarded for when they have hit the budget for the inflated figure. I have noted schemes way over original budget estimates that suddenly achieve a smiley. It is however not all smiles for taxpayers 

The widespread use of the internet and access to reports makes this transparent; go back prior to widespread use of e-government and I suspect anyone without a photographic memory would have fallen for it. 

Now there may be lots of reasons why budgets have to increase from the original budget but that is an unwelcome debate the Council appears happy to conceal. That is not scrutiny.

Saving money on waste must be a priority which is why I believe we should explore best practice elsewhere; included is one that Croydon Council has just implemented to vastly reduce the cost of staff transport. This has resulted in a substantial saving for taxpayers where the Council previously spent £1.3 million a year on transport costs has seen this reduce.

Croydon Council formerly relied on a combination of lease vehicles provided to staff and employee-owned vehicles. This combination not only meant that the Council was adding significantly to local congestion, it was also blighted by the fact that the Council had no real understanding of what state all these vehicles were in. Croydon Council began a pilot scheme with Zipcar, the UK’s largest pay-as-you-go car network.

Croydon Council saw the annual travel reduced by 42 per cent from £1.3m to £756,000. Employee business miles fell from 1.1 million to 642,000 miles. I certainly know the partisan-appointed Mayor of Medway has access to an exclusive vehicle in addition to a budget for food and drink.

“The idea is simple”, said Cllr Bashford, “rather than owning a car outright or leasing a fleet, we have exclusive access to 23 vehicles during standard working hours”. By using local transport and having access to the cars when they actually need them, rather than frittering money away on an expensive fleet, the council has reported considerable savings:

I have just submitted an FoI on the Council car fleet because I believe Medway could be working to reduce the burden on hardworking families

1 comment:

  1. One of the (many) problems with local government is the lack of accountability to residents, businesses and visitors who all contribute to local public finances.

    In modern times it just isn't acceptable that we are graciously allowed a say only once every 4 years.

    In my view we should be looking to adopt the system used in the USA where local 'propositions' are voted on at the same time as the local or national elections. We could do this for any spending that will amount to over £500k or a similar level. This not only provides the voter with a more effective voice but will make politicians work harder to explain why a certain measure is required. It might also stop the vanity projects and ensure that certain wards are not favoured over others.

    Being a local councilor should be about public service. Unfortunately, for some it is more about power and as an entry on a political CV.