Headlines: June 14th, 2006

Local councils are on course to deliver more than a billion pounds worth of efficiency gains in this financial year, according to new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, based on authorities’ own annual forward look efficiency statements.The Department is expecting savings marginally below 1.3 billion pounds, compared with 1.1 billion pounds in 2005-6 and 760 million pounds the year before. The figures exclude efficiency gains for schools, police and fire authorities. The Local Government Association said the figures showed local authorities were leading the way in making efficiency savings. Its chairman, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said, “It is extremely good news that local government efficiency gains are above and beyond the target set by Whitehall. According to the Treasury, councils are making more efficiency savings than anywhere else in the public sector.

DCLG says the new figures further highlight the fact that if the reported efficiency gains are actually delivered, local government is well on its way to meeting the 3 billion pound efficiency savings target set in the Gershon review a year ahead of schedule. The Minister for Local Government, Phil Woolas, said the statistics illustrated councils’ continued commitment to finding more opportunities for efficiency gains. “The figures are significant and show that, if delivered, the Gershon target will be met a year early. This is good news and demonstrates the positive approach taken to efficiency. These savings could be used to improve front line services for communities or to keep down council tax increases,” he said.

He warned, however, that authorities still needed to do more. “There is still work to do and I expect local authorities to maintain their momentum and continue to strive for greater efficiency,” he said.

The efficiency predictions from local authorities indicate that the biggest savings of 213.5 million pounds will come in adult social services with a further 197.2 million coming from corporate services and just over 137 million from procurement. Savings in environmental services will account for 102 million pounds and children’s services will deliver just over 92 million. Combined savings in local transport – both highways and non-highways spending – will be more than 77 million pounds.The full total is 1,274.4 million pounds.

A full breakdown of the forward look efficiency statements for local authorities can be viewed at: www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500619