Headlines: September 4th, 2008

Proposals have been unveiled which would give people more access to information about how efficiently their local council is being run. The Local Government Minister, John Healey, has begun a consultation on the plans and said he wanted council tax payers to be at the heart of a drive to save a further five billion pounds in local government spending over the next three years.

It is estimated that savings of that level would be worth 184 pounds a year to an average Band D council tax payer. Mr Healey said local people should be able to see for themselves how efficient their council was when they received their bills, which, under the proposals, would include details of the efficiency savings an authority had made.

The plans would also mean information sent out with tax bills would show the average level of efficiency savings made by similar councils over the same period. This would allow people to compare their council’s performance with that of other authorities, giving them the ability to challenge their councils and hold them to account if they appeared to be performing poorly. That could be done by petitioning the authority or through the ballot box.

John Healey acknowledged that councils had a good track record of making savings and becoming more efficient and in the last four years had delivered more than 3.3 billion pounds in savings, equivalent to 123 pounds off an average Band D bill. “But more can always be done so I look for councils to make around five billion pounds of further savings over the next three years, to meet the expectations the public rightly hold for councils to deliver for their local communities,” he added.