Wednesday, 7 May 2008

How about this then?

A little more serious today because of some of the cost saving issues raised in my earlier posts. Before the first full council meeting of this term to give them something to think about.
Cost savings;-
If Sandwell want to save money which is better than alienating the population by increasing council tax year on year, I would like to make the following suggestions. Some of these were included in my local election post but I thought it worthwhile to summarise.

Money saving tip No1
Turn of the chandelier in the council house reception. 50 plus bulbs at 60watts and during daylight hours useless. There you go, more than enough savings here to allow free entry to Sandwell Park Farm during the week. Saving probably £1000 per year

Tip No2
I propose the council run a suggestion scheme for all direct council tax payers, with a prize worth winning: two years community charge for the winner and one year for each of three runners up. The tax payers would be asked to make suggestions on cost saving initiatives. I know from my time in industry that schemes of this type will only bring a small number of really good suggestions but these will have significant savings attached to them. Savings potentially £100K per year

Tip No3
Why in Sandwell are car parking charges only made in West Bromwich? The other five towns are free. Let us introduce the same rigid car parking regime across the whole borough. This question of car parking is quite complex and later I will raise some other more contentious parking anomalies. It’s difficult to estimate the amount of revenue that this one single measure would raise but it’s in the thousands but I guess because of the political map of the other towns this is never likely to happen.
With my first three cost saving ideas we are looking at potentially many thousands, so why do our councillors dilly dally with what they talk of as efficiency savings lets get on with it.
I don’t want this to appear I’m having a witch hunt with my Council but I do think they should consider the efficiency options before taking the easy route of raising taxes and particularly where they affect vulnerable older residents. They are after all a Socialist administration. Savings £50K per annum

Tip No 4
Litter picking! Why not introduce a payment by results scheme instead of paying by the hour, pay by the bag and change the routes so that they all had a go at the grot spots. Perhaps add some interest by making the pickers wardens with the ability to fine offenders. Difficult to estimate the savings here but from my experience in industry we would find a substantial saving and cleaner borough. I’m estimating £25K in the first year. Let’s have the debate, cost saving should be an agenda item at every council meeting. If you have a culture of trying to prevent waste you will keep costs and hence council tax down. Saving £25K

Tip No5
Councillor’s and council officers’ expenses. Ask the question is that overnight stay really essential? Do we have to have a seminar in the most expensive venue in Sandwell? Could we use cheaper hotels when overnight stays are necessary and should we be paying a drinks allowance. I know you could argue that we have to offer the best facilities to get the best people but this kind of thinking is only adding to the problem. Sandwell is a poor area, we need to encourage wealth into the borough not waste what we already have. Realistic savings I suppose in the order of £50k per year.

Tip No6 Electricity.
With modern lighting systems we could have every off highway or estate road lit by using solar lighting. There would be an initial cost but this could be recovered from central government as part of the drive to reduce CO2 emissions. The savings to Sandwell council tax payers would be enormous. If solar panels were fitted to the council house where there are plenty of suitable sites the savings would be even more substantial and Sandwell would be seen has leading the way towards the governments tough emission reduction targets and we would all benefit. The lower level roof of the council house is ideal for this application at some stage of the day they are in direct sunlight. Without knowing the energy budget for the council it’s impossible to estimate the saving but I would guess it amounts to £80K per year. Return on capital probably three years and immediate if central governments funds used.

Tip No7
If I go into work in West Brom it costs me £2 to park all day, unless I scratch around for an on street parking spot which is inconvenient and rarer than rocking horse shit. If I go to our council house I park free after getting the token for the barrier. Can you guess what’s coming next? Got it in one! Introduce car parking charges for councillors and council staff. Off the cuff :- 300 car park spaces £2 per day = £600 * 5 = £3000 per week * 48 = £144000 per year. A similar situation applies at the training and development centre. So perhaps if applied to all sites it’s a much bigger number. Now that’s worth having. I can feel a big reduction in council tax coming. Perhaps you could make the case against this scenario.
Total increased revenue to Sandwell circa £450K. If I’m, say 30% out it still gives a massive revenue increase of £315K per annum. Enough to cut the cost of meals on wheels and a lot of other unpopular anti pensioner measures which this council have introduced over the last few years and without having to increase council tax.
How about that then?


Liz said...

Introduce the charges, we'll park in Oldbury (tons of spaces available 'cos there ain't no shops to speak of) or on Sainsbury's car park for nowt. total income to the Council = Nil

Where can I claim my drinks allowance?

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

Well Liz, thank you for your comment. I’m delighted that it has sparked a debate of sorts. My post I believe is only scratching at the surface and I make the point that you have to have a culture which is trying to avoid waste which I don’t see in Sandwell at the moment.