Monday, August 10, 2009

Smarter with Less

What started with a very pleasant August morning has given way to a rather windy and overcast afternoon.

I've been over to see the work-in progress at the Westgate pavillion and can't express admiration enough for what Kevin Crace has achieved to date in renovating this wonderful piece of local history. I'm told he's having real problems with persistent vandalism overnight, despite the presence of two large guard dogs inside the building and the police are now involved.

This is the same old depressing local story and it's reflected in the damage now being done to the vacant retirement home opposite in Sea Road, which has been effectively robbed-out, I'm informed, with many of the windows now broken. It's hard enough to find the independent funds and the support for much-needed regeneration programmes, such as the Westgate pavillion and yet here in Thanet, we face a contant battle against a determined but sizeable minority of vandals, hell-bent on reducing the island's empty buildings to smashed windows and broken rubble at any opportunity.

Computer Weekly have picked-up on the Thanet council ICT strategy in the earlier 'Blog' entry and have asked me to write an opinion column on the much broader issues surrounding the streamlining of delivery channels, shared services and how councils need to adapt to the demands of a more hostile financial environment to come.

As the Sunday Times observed yesterday, local council spending has boomed in recent years, rising by 37.3% since 2003. This is now set to go into reverse. This government’s current spending round runs until April 2011, after which payments to support local authorities — roughly half of their income, will be cut. Mind you, it's increasingly unlikely that we will have the same Government in power by this time next year, unless perhaps Peter Mandleson takes control!

Most councils think the drop is likely to be in the region of 10%-15%, but are making contingency plans for a decrease of 30% if Treasury forecasts for the economy prove too optimistic. This could mean cuts of 40% for some services because of the need to protect the most important.

This is of course where technology could play a vital part in smoothing-out the bumps ahead if applied properly and I'm using the expression 'SmartGov' as a handy way of describing the challenge. In some ways, I'm thinking out loud as I write this entry because I don't need to deliver the Computer Weekly piece until Friday.


Stop Manston Expansion Group said...

Doc, with the 37% increase in local gov spending, perhaps it would be good to remind us what we gave gained since 2003 so we know what to expect on the down slope.

And is the 37% in actual terms, rather than index linked? If so, what have/will the true gains/fall be?

Anonymous said...

You speak about the sizeable minority of vandals, and in no way am i saying what they are doing is justified but there is still not much to do in the area for youngsters and I doubt the Turner Contemporary will keep them busy for hours.

DrM. said...

Contrary to popular myth, a significant resource is applied to the provision of leisure activities to Thanet's young people, you only have to see the magazine which is distributed for them.

Sadly however, a great many, being teenagers, prefer to "hang around" and do nothing or hang around with six packs of Stella and cause trouble once they've consumed it.

The irony is that being a parent I don't know of any teenagers who complain of nothing to do and so it's very much a social condition too I suspect, part of the Jeremy Kyle society in which we find ourselves today.