“we have assumed that the existing services delivered by councils will remain unchanged”

The Northern Ireland Environment Minister, with responsibility for local government, the DUP’s Edwin Poots has told the NI Assembly that he is “absolutely committed to successfully delivering local government reform in May 2011.” BBC report here. [Additional report here] According to the Economic Appraisal by PriceWaterhouseCoopers the preferred option, which would incur one-off costs of £126.6million, has “a projected saving of £438million over a 25-year period.” Which may seem slightly dubious given the lengthy time-scale involved.. The detail of the financial analysis [pdf file] reveals that the annual Local Government Costs are expected to rise from £623.2million to £763.4million while the annual Central Government Costs would fall from £138.5million to £5.1million. They’ve still to work out what to call all of them though.. and then there’s the issue of Council debts. Adds Mark Devenport has some related thoughts. Update Hansard record of ministerial statement and debate.From the financial analysis [pdf file]

5.53 The following comments are made in respect of these costs:

?? Local Government Costs – we have assumed that the existing services delivered by councils will remain unchanged, however the functions transferred from Central Government plus the new functions that councils will take on add approximately £140.2 million to local government expenditure;
?? Central Government Costs – these costs, within central government, currently cost approximately £138 million, however this reduces significantly as functions are transferred to local government. The cost of £5.1 million remaining is in respect of the component of Planning Service which will remain in Central Government;
?? Increase in Local and Central Government costs – the overall costs of Central and Local Government increase from £761 million (i.e. £623.2m + £138.5m) to £768.5 million (i.e. £763.4m + £5.1m) due to the cost of enhanced civil contingencies, community planning and the additional costs of the delivery of local planning;
?? Regional organisations – the cost of the regional organisations increases by over £2.25 million reflecting the additional cost of audit and enhanced role proposed for the Local Government Association;
?? Transition Costs (Annual) – these are applied equally across all ‘Do Something’ options and refer to additional costs which will be incurred on an annual basis, such as: salary harmonisation; senior staff salary increases; councillor remuneration increase; councillor development costs; costs of a standards committee and NI Ombudsman (Commissioner for Complaints) costs;
?? Transition Benefits (Annual) – these are applied equally across all ‘Do Something’ options and refer to benefits which will be incurred on an annual basis, such as: savings from reduced numbers of senior staff and councillors; reduced audit fees and savings from insurance premiums;
?? Transformation Benefits (Annual) – these benefits apply to option 3, 4 and 5 only at a rate of 2.5%, 5% and 7.5% of revenue expenditure respectively. This reflects the more progressive nature of transformation being proposed and therefore the financial benefits which can be derived from this;
?? Transition Costs (One-off) – these costs are applied equally across all ‘Do Something’ options and include items such as: winding up of legacy councils; creation of new councils; recruitment of top tier staff; severance scheme for councillors; redundancy costs for senior officers; relocation; excess fares; capacity building; and inducting staff into the new organisations;
?? Transformation Costs (One-off) – these costs apply to option 3 (at a rate of 3% of revenue expenditure), option 4 (at a rate of 7%) and option 5 (at a rate of 8.5% including an additional £8 million for the establishment of the BSO). The cost of option 5 shows the incremental nature of this option vis-à-vis option 4;
?? Total Cost of RPA functions – this shows that the cost of delivering option 2 is more expensive than option 1 on an annual basis and also includes a significant transition cost of £38 million. Options 3, 4 and 5 can all be delivered at a lower annual cost than option 1, however they incur significant one-off transition, ICT and transformation costs ranging from £53 million to £127 million. Taking option 5, it costs approximately £126.6 million to implement but could deliver annual revenue cost savings of approximately £41 million. The impact of these one-off costs compared to the annual net revenue costs on overall project viability across all options is assessed in the Net Present Costs calculation section below.

, , ,

  • Has Poots ruled out the possibility of elections to the current 26 councils in May 2010?

  • jone
  • otto

    Am I naive when I observe that Scotland has 32 unitary authorities for 5.5M people, Wales 22 for 3M people and that taking the average population/council ratio from these and applying it to Northern Ireland (1.75M people) you get exactly 11 councils (which is what we’re going to have).

    If we’re just going to copy the next door neighbours maybe we should also just look at their average cost per council and allocate that.

    Anyone got the figures?

  • DR

    is it too late to question whether the whole scheme needs to go ahead? surely some saving can be made as things are, and its seems if stormont keeps going very little extra is going to be transfered down, so the “super” councils will have little extra power but lose thier one great strenght, local identity and representation.

  • So:

    Scotland = 171,875 per council
    Wales = 136,363 per council
    NI = 154,545 per council under the new structures or 65,384 under the old one.

    The question isn’t as much an administrative one for me – getting a council size between that of Wales and Scotland is surely about the right answer. It’s the degree to which those councils devolve services and create feedback loops on a more local level that counts. From what I’ve seen, they are less likely to do that in NI than they are elsewhere (purely a subjective judgement, admittedly). In England, there is now a duty to promote local democracy placed upon Councils. I know that the very idea is an anathema amoung local officials in NI.

  • otto

    DR / Paul,

    Maybe we just need to learn the whole of the lessons from our Scottish and Welsh colleagues. Perhaps we’ve been to used to our 26 little boroughs and we’re now going to be too precious about unitary status.

    If we adopted the Republic’s approach with “city” status for towns over 50,000 people and counties with a lower level of community councils (as in Scotland) for the rest we’d have had six unitary “city” authorities for Belfast, Bangor, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, L’Derry and Craigavon and six unitary counties with a non-executive local layer of community councils with a right of consultation and some direct role in oversight of some local service delivery. That would be twelve councils altogether.

    You could do interesting things with community councils if you configured them more as resident’s associations + local county councillors rather than another layer of elected officials. You’d be more likely to get the involvement of members of local societies and bodies like the chambers of commerce, schools boards or conservation groups. Many towns in England find their resident’s associations, even if self-selecting, more dynamic than their councils.

    Even in relatively small North Down the rotting carcass of Donaghadee Town Hall is a real shame. If buildings like these were only used as post offices or libraries or scout halls or occasional police stations (or all of the above French commune style) as well as monthly use for the community council consultations it would at least give a town’s people a sense of place and contribution to their own own development.

    Our RPA seems a dog’s dinner designed to conform to the required 11 unitary authorities with the least imagination, effort or perhaps change to whatever fiefdoms exist amongst out local authority bureaucracy.

    It’s hard to believe anyone was actually paid to come up with it.

  • otto
  • Brian Walker

    Pete,

    The PWC summary, surprisingly for them, is largely waffle. This kind of rhetoric is so old noughties, not at all right for austere tens. It reads to me like:

    1. Cover for high start up costs. What are the savings at regional level? Anybody know? If not, how can a savings estimate be attempted?

    2. Cover for an admittedly necessary rates increase under the guise of reorganisation to deflect some of the blame from Stormont.

    I’d like to hear more from those much better informed than I, like some of the comments above.

  • LGO

    “We should also just look at their average cost per council and allocate that.”

    …except they get real powers as opposed to the dregs that are on offer to local councils from the Departments. It’s a mockery.

    “In England, there is now a duty to promote local democracy placed upon Councils. I know that the very idea is an anathema amoung local officials in NI.”

    You must be talking about the civil service. Local government officers are PUSHING to promote local democracy. I see it every day. And why? Because despite their perceived faults, they do a fucks sake better job than the Departments do. The only thing stopping them going further are legislative handcuffs.

    “You could do interesting things with community councils”

    Here? No you couldn’t. You get the same faces that appear at every meeting held about “community issues”. You ever tried to get onto anything here? Impossible. Even the DPPs are sewn up. They are the breeding grounds for the parties’ so-called next generation. And we shouldnt use vehicles like that to promote political interests. Northern Ireland hasn’t enough altruism to operate such a set up effectively.

    Anyway, why bother? If you’re going to have so-called community councils, stick with what you have. They already have more than a modicum of local knowledge.

    Here’s the craic, folks – there was no need to re-organise local government. None whatsoever. Their costs are minimal in the bigger picture of waste in education, health, agriculture and other services.

    Do not be surprised at PWC’s waffle. They’re nothing more than an expensive badge, designed to give some sort of creedence to what they are told to write in the first place.

    And me? What would I have done? I’d have gladly kept the 26 model, nearly as a canton approach, and devolved powers down to them on a local basis, where a micro-managed approach to problems of antisocial behaviour, poor educational attainment, poor healthcare, crumbling estates, crime and disorder, and the myriad other problems facing society could have been implemented. And then moved towards mergers in a longer term.

    Expensive? Yes. Workable? Of course. Results-driven? Certainly, when you are no more than a couple of hundred yards from the people you are answerable to.

    Now amazingly, we have no money to implement the Bain Report, yet we can do this…? Something is very, very wrong.

  • barnshee

    Here’s the craic, folks – there was no need to re-organise local government. None whatsoever. Their costs are minimal in the bigger picture of waste in education, health, agriculture and other services.

    What planet are you on
    A bunch of overpaid wankers
    “Directors” of fuck all –ex PE teachers, failed joiners etc who toady to local councillors” and who would struggle to earn a fraction of their salaries in the private sector

    Local politicians whose fondness for brown envelopes produced centralisation,politicians whose main quality is a an ability to bore and wave the appropriate flag.

    Rotten boroughs ripe for a cull -not a chance -watch your rate bill

  • LGO

    Barnshee, I have read your muck before, and I say to you, you sound like nothing more than a bitter little civil servant auditor from the DOE who had nothing better to do than go and rip the shit out of other peoples’ work; naught more than a bean-counter, good only for counting the dead and bayoneting the wounded. And a second rate bean-counter at that.

    You are obviously LONG retired, and hark back to the days when councils were nothing more than bin collectors, somewhere around 1982. Much has changed and much more has yet to come. If all you can do is focus your misplaced vitriol and ire upon the upper echelons of the organisations, then you know squat-all about the roles that councils play now. And you know even less about the aspirations that many of the younger staff coming up through the ranks have now, people who want to see something close to joined-up government, when the last ranks of the 30 year career local government officers leave at RPA.

    Brown envelopes? There are 26 councils now – your homework is to post evidence of at 26 instances in the last ten years of when council bribery was widely reported in the public domain; shouldn’t be hard to do, according to you. A Google search of “council”, “Northern Ireland” and “bribe” should do it.

    You have some nerve to break breath of brown envelopes, when the grimy system of “bonuses” in the bedrock of the private sector has led to – let’s call it for what it is – the depression we’re in now. Where now, for your beloved private sector, the very basis of which had us in near-ruin?

    Rates bill? If the average rates bill is £700, then about £300 of that goes to your local council. For less than a tenner per week, you get all the services that your local council provides, and much more pumped into the local economy from the programmes they apply for themselves from external sources. Care to do a tally? Pick a council. Any council. Let’s see what extra money they lever in from central government and EU sources every year.

    “Directors of fuck all”? Come back when you have something solid to write, rather than grubby little statements, fit for nothing more than trollish, shotgun blasts of bile. I’m no defender of the public sector; I’ve only been in it for four years – and I certainly don’t expect or want to be in it for four more; but I find the peppershot approach of sweeping statements that you and other armchair generals just LURVE to wank out at the public sector at any given opportunity to be, frankly, juvenile.

    Given your desire for change, I look forward to seeing your name on a ballot next time round. Or do you just prefer to leave it to the bores and flag wavers?

    Nothing is perfect. I said that first time round. But I expect better debate on the issue than the drivel you dribble out every time you’re on here.

    Pathetic.

  • “Local government officers are PUSHING to promote local democracy. I see it every day. And why? Because despite their perceived faults, they do a fucks sake better job than the Departments do.”

    LGO, would it be fair to say that some councils are better than others? My associates and I have had first hand experience of the actions of senior council officials on the north coast as well as input from councillors and MLAs on said actions and the ranking goes right down to dire.

    Sticking with 26 councils has a lot of merit but many councillors lack the ability to hold their senior officials to account. The local press could do more to expose sleaze but there’s a perceived reluctance to rock the boat as well as declining resources. But even when sleaze is exposed the local and central authorities are more likely to attack/expose the innocent concerned citizen/victim than to deal with the sleaze and its exponents.

  • jone

    And once again the ferry hoves into view…

  • “the ferry hoves into view”

    The ‘tied up’ Rathlin Express is a central government matter, you pillock 🙂

  • otto

    “and I certainly don’t expect or want to be in it for four more”

    Why’s that LGO? Retirement or dissatisfaction at the culture of local government? Or just the pay?

    Regarding Community Councils, do you not think that smaller councils dedicated to local amenities and planning would attract the sort of non-party political people who are active in our sports clubs and our conservation societies, our churches and other non-political bodies?

    The Scots allow elected representatives from areas in or around the community councils to serve as ex-officio members without voting rights or expenses. It’s a way of ending double jobbing without ending the input from the full-time politicians. Would that be a good compromise? You’d have a healthy tension between the local and regional (as the same people wouldn’t be on the two bodies) but you’d have the input of NI MLA’s or UK MP’s where useful.

  • barnshee

    “Nothing is perfect. I said that first time round. But I expect better debate on the issue than the drivel you dribble out every time you’re on here.

    Pathetic”

    OOOh touched a sensitive spot did I?

    Facts — egg Coleraine Council according to FOI request have 8 employees on £50000+ and 6 on £40000+ The “Director Scam” was a ploy to model themselves on “business” and massage up salaries by comparing themselves er with themselves” The are not directors of a business -the don’t sell anything.

    How much would they earn outside in the real world? -apart from the technical staff who would employ them?

    Hint- Economic Development manager employed for oh say last 20 years– Economic development created er NIL (apart from his job of course)

    Town centre manager??

    At the same time (again FOI) 50%of their workforce -the ones who actually perform the tasks the rate payer pays for- are on less than NI average wages –some room for improvement there at the expense of the overpaid.

    Building Control-?

    Little or no building going on, lots of building workers laid off. Any Building control staff laid off – ?

    “naught more than a bean-counter”

    Formal Bean counting requires at least a 2.1 in a “hard” subject (one with numbers usually) + 2/3 years of professional exams (exams with high failure rate) a formal “apprenticeship”.-and that’s just to get started.

    Most problems (public and private) have in my experience been caused by ignoring, not listening to or not employing the bean counter.

    Whinging about the bean counter is the equivalent of shooting the messenger.

    Councils are like the rest of the public sector in N Ireland.
    There are too many of them; 70% of NI gp is public sector funded

    Some of the staff is seriously overpaid at the expense of the 50% who earn below average earnings–A massive cull is long overdue

  • LGO

    “Why’s that LGO? Retirement or dissatisfaction at the culture of local government? Or just the pay?”

    I’m in my (very) early thirties so I’m not been one of the “job-for-life” age group. Contracts here, contracts there. Anyone my age and under are the same. Imagine being in there or anywhere else for 30 years. No way. No matter what job it was, public or private sector!

    “Regarding Community Councils, do you not think….” Maybe initially, Otto. But long term? No way. Not here.

    “but you’d have the input of NI MLA’s or UK MP’s where useful.” Isn’t that what they called a contradiction in terms? 🙂

    Onwards to the bile of Barnshee. Let’s see what he has to mutter.

    “OOOh touched a sensitive spot did I?”
    Only in the fact that I can’t believe they let you on here. You haven’t countered anything I’ve said about local government, and I await your posted proof of the brown envelopes.

    On the “Director scam”, I have no problem with someone who manages anything up to 100 employees and a budget of several million, getting fifty grand. No problem at all. Did you know that in the charity sector, the rule of thumb is that once your income reaches the million mark, your pay is around £80k per annum at Chief Executive level? Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

    But you see, Barnshee, this is where you and many others go so very badly astray. Public services have to be delivered. The audit, the health and safety, the governance requirements (imposed by people such as NIAO, themselves an affront to prudence in terms of their costs), are so much more than that of the private sector.

    And yet, your beloved private sector just goes out there, loses money hand over fist, and then….gets rewarded with more. From the public purse. How’d that happen?

    Kinda blows your Building Control argument out of the water. The Council I work for projected a £45k loss this year from fees. It didn’t happen. Home improvements took over from developer fees.

    And if I have checked correctly Coleraine Borough Council doesn’t employ a town centre manager. The Town Centre Partnership does. And initially that funding came from Europe. NOT your rates. And then it ran out. So what did the private sector do in Coleraine?

    It ran to the public sector for a handout.

    Maybe you are referring to the recently advertised post for Regeneration Manager for Portrush? Perhaps you want to check where that funding came from.

    “Economic development created er NIL (apart from his job of course)”

    Really? His job, you say? Do you want to check that, Barnshee? I’ll give you a chance now to retract it. Nah, fuck it, why bother? The Economic Development Manager in Coleraine is a woman, and has been for the past seven years. Why am I spending my Friday night arguing with a muppet?

    “Formal Bean counting requires at least a 2.1 in a “hard” subject (one with numbers usually) + 2/3 years of professional exams (exams with high failure rate) a formal “apprenticeship”.-and that’s just to get started.”

    “70% of NI gp is public sector funded” and of that 100% pie of Northern Ireland funding, councils cost 4-5%, and will rise to around 8% with transferring functions from expensive central government departments.

    I say it again: everyone is looking in the wrong place here. It’s the deftest sleight of hand that Stormont could have played to have you looking over here, while they fumble the ball there. And you, you arse, you fell for it, because isn’t it just handy to slate that which is closest to you?

    What a waste of formal qualifications; and doesn’t it just underline that a string of qualifications is no substitute for nouse? I only whinge about the bean-counter when it is patently obvious that they really don’t amount to, what’s the phrase? A hill of beans. If you want to whinge, at least make it coherent, punctuated, spelled correctly, and accurate.

    Nevin, in answer to your question, I highly rate Dungannon, Banbridge, Omagh, Ballymena, Newry and Mourne, Limavady, Magherafelt, and Cookstown for a variety of reasons. The rest including Moyle, I couldn’t possibly comment. 🙂

  • barnshee

    “I say it again: everyone is looking in the wrong place here. It’s the deftest sleight of hand that Stormont could have played to have you looking over here, while they fumble the ball there. And you, you arse, you fell for it, because isn’t it just handy to slate that which is closest to you? “

    Sigh and REPEATS

    Councils are LIKE THE REST of the public sector in N Ireland.
    There are too many of them; 70% of NI gp is public sector funded
    Some of the staff are seriously overpaid at the expense of the 50% who earn below average earnings—a massive cull is long overdue

    People overpaid elsewhere should not be used as an excuse to over pay those in the public sector. I note that your compare is with the private INCOME EARNING sector ( private sector)? How much income do councils generate?

    Male or female the only job the Economic development officer has created in 20+ years is his/her own. The expense has been a total waste of public (largely English) tax payer’s money, here it is convenient to mention Ballymoney (six miles away) and Moyle (17 miles away) who also employ similar “economic development” staff as does Limavady (15 miles away) and Ballymena 25 miles away.

    “And yet, your beloved private sector just goes out there, loses money hand over fist, and then….gets rewarded with more. From the public purse. How’d that happen?”

    Hopefully it goes bust and the owners pick up the tab. If politicians like mps and local councilors want to pick it up —sadly the only redress available is at election time
    I
    n MY particular “beloved private sector” there has been a collapse of 40% of business activity currently solved by sharing out jobs to keep people off the dole —this translates to 60% of a weeks wages for all rather than full wages for 60% . Let’s see how many in the public sector respond in a similar fashion when cuts are required.

    My favorite been counter is off to the public sector—currently a financial controller – 4 companies-two of them located overseas, one outside the UK paid the “going rate “in the sector £38K –is off to an index linked pension £45/46 K job. Estimates that she would need her current salary increased to 50K to enable her to stay.

    Clearly in you haste to respond you somehow missed the fact that as I again repeat
    Councils are LIKE THE REST of the public sector in N Ireland.

    However I save the best for last

    “And if I have checked correctly Coleraine Borough Council doesn’t employ a town centre manager. The Town Centre Partnership does. And initially that funding came from Europe. NOT your rates. And then it ran out. So what did the private sector do in Coleraine?2

    1 Where did “Europe” get the money—-tax payers–the poor benighted English and German taxpayers mostly.

    2 The Council organized the funds from Europe, the post is administered from the Town admin hall and its existence is simply part of the copy my neighbor “empire building” endemic in councils . They were fully aware that the funds were finite. If business in a town centre want a town centre manager–let business fund it. The whole driving force for the post has been the council the poor benighted ptaxpayer is now stuck with the bill,

  • LGO

    “How much income do councils generate?”

    If you want councils to make money in the traditional sense, change the legislation. We welcome it. But if in terms of your question, you want to know how much they pull in in external funding, ask. My own council gets a block grant of around £11m. We “levered in” from external, non EU-sources around £6m into our area. Want better? I suggest you get a knowledge of the grant-funding paper trail, see what the resource needs are, imposed by external knife wielding, useless auditors, and pay for it.

    “Male or female the only job the Economic development officer has created in 20+ years is his/her own.”

    So you are saying that no council programme, managed by an economic development officer, has created any new jobs at all, despite the part funding in some cases and the full funding in many cases of business start, business growth or other small grant assistance programmes? Are you sure you want to say that, because from the biggest to the smallest, every council will have evaluated their spend. Indeed I believe that a PWC independent report (which is just a badge to lend credibility) says that council funding towards business start created 1.5 jobs per case funded.

    Are you sure you want to go down that path? Because I believe what you are saying is pure and unadulterated nonsense, mixed with the usual misinformed petty, anti-public sector bile.

    “The expense has been a total waste of public (largely English) tax payer’s money, here it is convenient to mention Ballymoney (six miles away) and Moyle (17 miles away) who also employ similar “economic development” staff as does Limavady (15 miles away) and Ballymena 25 miles away.”

    You should call three of those four councils and ask them about that – because I will be in the morning to confirm that not one of the three employs staff who only manage economic development programmes. None of them have town centre managers. None of them fund “trade missions”. None of them pay for “consultants” to deliver programmes. All of them have small-scale, part-funded programmes, which are voluntarily signed up to by local businesses. Do you dispute that? Do you want to ring any one of them and ask for feedback? FOI it, perchance?

    Again, more misinformed nonsense. Why don’t you ring and ask for some evaluation of some of the programmes from any one of them? Or perhaps I rang them all to ensure they lie to you.

    “1 Where did “Europe” get the money——tax payers—the poor benighted English and German taxpayers mostly.”

    And therefore extra funds coming into – at that time – a region which was at 72% of EU GDP. Or perhaps you would have preferred to languish on the shitheap of Europe. It’s here, it’s here to stay, get used to it.

    “2 The Council organized the funds from Europe,”

    The Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment BID for the funds, which were set aside for Northern Ireland.

    “the post is administered from the Town admin hall and its existence is simply part of the copy”

    What utter shite!! The “town admin hall”???? The post was and remains administered from the Town Centre Partnership, a private sector grouping which NO DOUBT expects the public sector to pick up the tab through TUPE (do you even know what that is??) to ensure their empire remains!

    “my neighbor “empire building” endemic in councils . They were fully aware that the funds were finite. If business in a town centre want a town centre manager—let business fund it. The whole driving force for the post has been the council the poor benighted ptaxpayer is now stuck with the bill,”

    Utter nonsense and you know it – the manager was sought BY the private sector in the town, and now they expect the bill to be picked up by everyone. Post in your “thoughts” as much as you want – one phone to CBC in the morning will settle it. By the way – have you checked to see if any of the other neighbours HAVE a town centre manager….? I did. Should be interesting to see your results.

    Unbelievable – is this like “tell a lie enough times and everyone will believe it”??? The best for last?? I don’t know how you get away with it.

    And by the way – not one of the central government mandarins, useless as they are, nor any of the Councillors to the best of my knowledge, has ordered, asked for, or commanded any sort of pay review. Take it on up the line if you have a problem with it – you certainly voted for the elected ones – ask them!