Headlines: June 26th, 2009

Council officers have been urged to look at every pound they spend to ensure it is benefiting local people. The Communities and Local Government Secretary, John Denham, told members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy that the days when councils could claim every problem could be answered by a cheque from Whitehall were over.

He told their conference in Manchester that responsive and effective local councils would be the key to giving taxpayers value for money. Asking them to look at every way each pound they spent could benefit local people, he highlighted the 42 billion pounds spent on buying goods and services each year. That money, he said, could just buy services or it could be used to ensure that service providers also provided apprenticeships and other training opportunities.

“Although overall Government current spending will rise in real terms under this Government, the Local authorities will need to make each taxpayer’s pound work harder than ever. Indeed, councils must be able to promise residents that every taxpayers’ pound will work as hard for them as taxpayers worked to earn it in the first place,” he said.

Mr. Denham also confirmed he would open a debate on the powers and responsibilities of local government and said one of the most exciting possibilities was to enable a more coherent look at every aspect of public spending in each local authority area. At the same time the Government published figures for collection rates for council tax and non-domestic rates in the last financial year. These showed authorities collected 97 per cent of expected council tax and nearly 98 per cent of the expected business rates return.