Friday, 14 September 2012

Camden Graph of Doom

Camden Graph of Doom
The chart above illustrates the long-term pressures Camden council is under -and the pressure the increasing burden of statutory services will place on decisions to fund other services, e.g. parks, libraries, swimming pools, roads, community organisations, seniors' luncheon clubs etc.

The red line represents estimated Budget, while the bars represent the costs of childrens' services and care.  Any gap in between is the Budget for anything else.  Already squeezed, there will be no money for the at all by 2025.

Simply put, if current spending projections are accurate and if councils statutory responsibilities are the same then within the near future statutory services and social care costs will swallow up most local council spending leaving very little for other services to the community.

Council officers give this caveat:  "The following graph is an indicative chart of the possible future levels of funding and demand.  This contains a number of broad assumptions about future demographic pressures and levels of government funding. This is for illustrative purposes of what would happen if the Council took no action to manage pressures."

The Local Government Association explain these pressures in more detail in its financial modelling (this - in my view - is the best, and most readable, account so far of local government pressures).

To ensure we have enough money to respond to these challenges, the council has to control costs - changes to the way we work, digitisation, re-prioritisation of spending, controlling costs.  We also need to think about how we investment money in services which both help people and save money in the end.

How public services operate will have to change.  More transactions will have to be done over the phone or online.  The many different places public services are delivered from will have to change.  Community libraries, for example, will be expected to be places where other council services will be delivered from - giving them a public service hub function.   

Compared to the somewhat rushed budget handed to us by the new government in 2010, we now have more time to look at what how and what we spend, and fully understand what drives costs in all services.  Through this lens what we had to do in 2010 - cut luncheon clubs for 'low needs' pensioners, might instead be seen as an essential preventative service which lowers costs - in the long run - for more acute services (fewer trips and falls, reduced isolation).

Taken together to save community service people love, we need to modernise as well as adopt a new 'investment' approach to Budget-setting.  More soon.  

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