Saturday, September 07, 2013

Partnership Working - The Sop for Swindon's Budget Cuts

Whether it's the Big Conversation, or the One Swindon Partnership, Swindon Borough Council seems eager to keep making a lot of getting by with very little.

In the run-up to the 2010 General Election, much was made of how government departments and agencies would need to work closer, sharing budgets, staff, equipment and more as budget cuts were coming. This policy was embraced strongly by Swindon Borough Council with both arms, as they rushed to work out how to save £15 million from one year to the next. Much was made of moving the council towards just being an 'enabler' (which sounds creepy) that would let contracts to companies to do all the jobs the local authority had previously carried out.

Another main plank was getting departments of the council, it's 'partners' (mainly it's hugely contracted-to-do-everything Capita and Swindon Commercial Services) and even, in the longer term, other neighbouring local authorities, to work in partnership to provide service and projects.

It seems even nearly 4 years later, if the word 'partnership' can be tacked onto anything, no matter how unnecessary the service or project, it's elevated to a solid level of respectability. However there's a big problem that's now being hit and that's money.

Getting departments and organisations to get to know each other and build up local knowledge is fine and should be encouraged, but trying to squeeze the same amount of productivity as pre-2010 from a council that has mostly part-time staff, tiny departments and have lost much of their local knowledge is trying to simply deny the simple truth.

If you want greater productivity and a council that plans properly for the future, we need to spend money on it. Otherwise all that'll be left is a person manning a telephone desk and a warehouse full of orange paint.

Are their any councillors arguing for investment into council manpower? Strategies and partnerships don't empty the bins.

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