Saturday, 6 February 2010

Billions wasted by London Councils

By Sunil Patel

Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash earmarked for essential public services have been wasted through the systematic inefficiency of London Council's.

A massive £11 billion, or 15 per cent of the £73 billion spent by the government in London, was needlessly flushed away due to local authority mismanagement and the duplicity of services.

If the money wasted in the capital was applied to the rest of UK it would represent a colossal £75 billion hit to the public purse, or £3,000 per household in the country, according to the Taxpayers' Alliance.

A spokeswoman for the campaign group said, “Our members have seen their council tax more than double in the last few years but they haven’t seen any corresponding improvement in the quality of services.

“There needs to be more transparency and accountability. Taxpayers are urging council officials to be more transparent with their spending so they can be judged by the same level of scrutiny as private sector businesses.

The figures were published by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers on January 25, who were instructed by London Councils (who represent local authorities in London) to carry out the government’s Total Place audit on public spending in the capital.

The strategy aims to reduce costs by identifying overlapping and duplication of services amongst organisations.

London Councils' Chairman Councillor Merrick Cockell said, "We have long been aware that councils do not operate within a perfect system.

“The way public bodies are funded, and the number of different organisations working for similar or overlapping aims, unfortunately, make waste inevitable.”

"Amid the ongoing debate around the public sector funding squeeze, we will be thoroughly examining their conclusions in the hope of setting out significant reforms for the capital in the coming months."

The Taxpayers' Alliance say local councils need to re-engage with the public through providing meaningful indicators on efficiency savings.

The spokeswoman added, “How can we be sure their hard-earned cash does not end up in council black hole of bloated administration?”

The government announced in December as part of Smarter Government report it was chasing an additional £12 billion in savings on top of the efficiency savings outlined in the budget.

And public sector inefficiencies was one of the key areas the government was looking to target.

Steve Bundred Chief Executive, Audit Commission, in evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), thinks even if there were to be £50 billion worth of reductions in public expenditure; spending levels in real terms would still be higher than during the last general election.

He told the eleven-member (PASC) panel, “Even though undoubtedly we will be seeing spending cuts of the like not seen in the lifetime of those working in the public sector it will come after ten years of sustained growth.”

Mr Bundred did, however, think the government’s plans to ring-fence the health and education budgets was unfair.

“To simply exempt the two most well-funded services from the pain which will be inflicted on everybody else seems t

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