A senior Treasury official has urged councils involved in the Total Place programme to provide more hard figures to back up assertions about efficiency savings.
Helen Bailey, the Treasury’s director of public services, said pilot areas needed to do more to sell the programme to an incoming government.
Speaking to the LGC/New Local Government Network Total Place conference, Ms Bailey said: “[The pilots] have all been a bit coy with the numbers. [An incoming government] will want to be convinced … give us some numbers, give us some evidence.”
The former Islington LBC chief executive assured councils figures would be used “sensitively and intelligently”.
Her comments followed concern voiced by pilots in February that notional savings identified in reports would be translated into grant cuts by Treasury officials.
Some council officials remain uneasy about including figures.
Cecilia Tredget, director of Improvement East, which has worked with the Central Bedfordshire & Luton pilot, said: “The message that the regional improvement and efficiency partnerships have been giving to the high level group is that it’s a pilot.
“We do not want local authorities to be hostages to fortune or made to pay for what the business case may be at the moment.”
Pilots also warned ministers against extrapolating national savings from them.
Manchester city region’s Total Place manager Nuala O’Rourke said: “We don’t believe that it’s sensible to say ‘[these savings] are available here so this would be available there’.
“I think the Total Place pilots are saying the same thing. The work that has been done in the pilot is not transferable.
“You can’t pick it up and say that saving would be available everywhere else.”
The high-level group, led by Sir Michael Bichard, is compiling its report, which will appear alongside the Budget, anticipated to be unveiled on 24 March.
As well as evaluating the 13 pilots, the group will also use data from some of the 60 to 70 so-called parallel places being conducted independently.
Ms Bailey also used her speech to emphasise that ministers were serious about cutting the burden of reporting.
Addressing the issue of Sir Michael’s request for councils to gather evidence of how much regulation is costing them, she said: “It is not new but it is good to have the evidence.
“There is a burden for places as a result of data requirements. We need to think about that.”