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INSIDER - FINANCE DIRECTORS ARE LOOKING TO THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE

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Life, the universe and everything...
Life, the universe and everything

There is a finance director who claims to have discovered the results of Sir Michael Lyons' review of council roles and funding.

Sir Michael's conclusion will be '42', according to this fan of the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.

That was, of course, the answer to the meaning of 'life, the universe and everything', though is even that category wide enough to include all Sir Michael's remit?

Sir Michael has laboured long to solve these problems, yet as our intergalactic aficionado points out:

'As he finally admits that the long-awaited report on funding will not really provide the answer, government now seem to be searching for the question.'

Mock not, for the cult sci-fi book really does inform ministerial thinking. Consider the government's invitation to councils to volunteer for restructuring.

What does that recall, if not a character in its sequel, The restaurant at the end of the universe: the Animal That Asks to be Eaten?

Unhealthy balance sheets

Finance directors who have looked with envy at the billions of pounds that have poured into the NHS may now feel slightly smug.

The scale of councils' financial woes is puny compared with the red ink flowing from NHS balance sheets.

One district director says: 'I was just wondering whether that would have happened in local government, if we had had a similar increase in spending would there have been so little detectable impact on services?'

Or indeed, so much detectable change in the deficits?

As another director wonders: 'Why is it that local government has endless inspection, central control and capping, yet is generally in the black, yet the NHS has few of these things and is so far in the red?'

Answers should be sent, he suggests, to:

Social Services Blackhole, Having-to-Bail-out-the-NHS, Cost Shunting Road, The Forgotten Customer.

He did not provide a postcode for these missives. What about P45?

The single status spectre

A spectre stalks the north. It is a solicitor called Stefan Cross who has secured some eye-wateringly large settlements from councils that have not managed to bury back-claims for equal pay under single status agreements.

One director notes unexpected scope for unrest:

'What happens where job evaluation schemes are changing grades if finance staff have to look round for more money for some people, when they are faced with getting less themselves?' he wonders.

All views are published anonymously. To join the finance Insider e-mail: mark.smulian@emap.com

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