Too many councils and councillors
Among the preliminary suggestions made are sharing services with Chichester District Council, looking to see how savings can be made through services such as public toilets, and maximising income from fees and charges.
As yet I haven’t seen any public involvement in the exercise, nor consultations with partner organisations.
An indication of where we might end up is the current consultation on hiking parking charges to cost £10 to park longer than two hours in July and August along our seafront.
Would a better starting point for the exercise be ‘is local government fit for purpose in Sussex?’.
Some sobering statistics. The members’ allowances paid to members of the district councils and West Sussex County Council members in the West Sussex area totals just under £3 million a year. Not massive amounts each but there are so many of them.
The combined chief executive salaries of just the district councils in West Sussex totals just under £550,000, yet the county council decided it didn’t need a chief executive.
Add to these figures the costs of premises, servicing committee meetings, ceremonial events and the like and you can see the cost of servicing so many councillors.
Put this in the context of valued services being under threat for the sake of thousands of pounds, it begs the question can we go on like this? Having a county wide service for planning, or environmental health, or benefits, or housing would not mean inaccessibility or masses of job losses.
Local neighbourhood offices would still mean access for local people and savings to be made would come from a small number of senior posts and efficiency savings in working for a larger organisation.
Otherwise we might see the same achieved through each individual council outsourcing virtually everything to organisations delivering lower overheads.
I want to retain a public sector.
Democratic accountability and local decision making on planning applications, licencing etc could come through an adaption of the successful joint committee system which currently brings together county, district and town and parish councillors in one forum for a sensible geographical area. If town and parish councils were delolved of more serious decision making powers, they may rise to the occasion.
In West Sussex there are too many councils and too many councillors. The elephant in the room needs addressing.
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