The first problem they need to tackle when budget making is the information they get sent. All the Councils I have know over many years receive budget papers in the same useless form. Officers start on the basis that everything being spent in the outgoing year is a given. They then compile a list of “unavoidable” commitments to add to last year’s total. On goes the revenue consequences of last year’s new projects, the need to make crucial repairs to capital assets which they otherwise have not provided for, pay rises agreed, automatic bonuses, the consequences of government circulars seeking more actions by Councils (whether they are statutory or advisory), and any other item they can kitchen sink. They usually claim Council inflation is much higher than CPI inflation, and put a large figure in for that as well.
This produces typically the “need” for a 6-10% increase in Council Tax for a so-called “standstill” budget. If Councillors accept this work of fiction, they are on the hook for a bruising and ultimately unsuccessful budget process. If Councillors counter by saying they want to do something new in one or two areas, that is extra making the Council Tax increase even higher. If they request a reduction in the proposed tax increase – and they usually do – officers then come forward with “cuts”. These are usually carefully chosen to cause maximum political pain. They typically propose surrogate tax increases - higher car parking charges, planning fees, congestion charges and the like, and insensitive reductions in service, often aimed at the most vulnerable.
In the bargaining that follows the worst of the “cuts” are avoided, the fat in the budget is left untouched and neither side are happy with the result. Opposition Councillors have a field day if the process is public or news leaks out, as they can condemn the incumbents for daring to look at the uninviting list of cuts and charges the officers have dreamt up to try to keep the budget high.
They are just fucking taking the fucking piss, aren't they? I have bad news for John, though, if he thinks Tory councils are any less fucking shit. My council does the square root of fuck all and still manages inflation-busting increases every year. The cock suckers have millions in the bank and STILL push council tax up. They have plenty of money to send out expensive glossy brochures telling us what a fucking good job they're doing, but they can't fucking pick up litter.
And I've done some consulting to a county council (not my own, thankfully!) which was a complete revelation as to why and how things get done outside of council chambers.
Trust me, John, outside of the council chambers, the rank and file are no fucking better.
I really don't think there are going to be sufficient lamp posts.