Thursday, 9 September 2010

You Choose Survey

Redbridge Council has now started its Big Conversation on how to make ends meet after the reduction in their grant from Central Government.

What is interesting, as reported by Barkingside 21, and now updated by me is that so far there have been 354 submissions with an average council tax reduction of 4%.

Maximum pain?


  1. I had a look at "You Choose" and there are some interesting subjective assumptions there.

    Based on experience of doing this sort of exercise for businesses, savings in admin and income from rents, charges, council tax is understated, possibly by as much as 50%, i.e. they could double it if they tried hard enough.

    Also, the Government cannot get away with giving Councils a number and say "You get on with it!". This will lead to inconsistencies between areas, notwithstanding localised priorities, and thus the dreaded "Postcode Lotteries".

  2. Yes, we've noticed that too.

    In the Council's annual budget consultations, there has been a noticeable shift over recent years towards the "keep tax as low as possible" option, whereas in the past there was generally a more even balance between this and the "protect services" option. I'd put this down to some combination of people reacting against the significant increases in tax under Tory control (4th highest Council Tax rise in London 2006-09, Redbridge is now in the top half of London tax rates for the first time) and the worsening economic climate changing people's financial priorities.

    But also I think there's a key difference between doing the budget online rather than for real, which is that once you've made savings in one service area in YouChoose, and up pop some negative consequences, there's a tendency (which I've noticed myself) to think, Oh well, I may as well take all the pain in this area rather than cut something else as well. For example if I close one library I may as well close three. So I'm guessing many people will have chosen some areas to cut and then put the sliders for those right down to the bottom.

    Whereas in budgeting for real the pressure works the other way - there's a tendency to prefer small savings across the board rather than very significant adverse consequences in a few particular service areas.

    This doesn't invalidate the exercise - people are still indicating preferences that we will be able to consider - but it does mean that there's more to the exercise than simply trying to replicate the precise spending levels that emerge from the consultation.