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LGC - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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And to cap it all . . . ...
And to cap it all . . .

Your report 'Cap threats hinder new localism' (LGC, 26 September) certainly rings true for Hampshire CC. Top councils were promised revenue freedoms and yet within months of becoming 'excellent', we in Hampshire now have the threat of capping hanging over us.

The reason why we run the risk of capping is that the government fails to fund us properly. It is about time local government minister Nick Raynsford had

a maths lesson. We now have only two options - increase council tax to protect our excellent services or make cuts in these services where demands

and cost pressures increase faster than the government's share of grant support.

The government could reverse its redistribution of grant away from the south-east to assist urban councils in the north and Midlands. The unsustainable council tax rises Hampshire residents are facing each year must stop. The so-called affluent council tax payer in the south-east can no longer afford the tax rises that result. The impact on pensioners, people on low or fixed incomes and key workers is causing renewed anxiety at a time when demand for services is increasing.

The government must intervene and use its powers to reduce the burden of council tax increases - not threaten to cap councils that only months ago were deemed to be 'excellent'.

Ken Thornber (con)

Leader, Hampshire CC

Hard evidence

It is not correct to say, as Professor Iain McLean does (LGC, 26 September) that the area cost adjustment 'lacks an evidence base'. It is based on the New earnings survey, and full details of how ACA factors are derived are available on our website.

www.local.odpm.gov.uk/finance/0304/acatechs.pdf

Robert Davies

Divisional manager, Local Government Finance

Successful engagement?

In your feature on the LGC Awards for Excellence (LGC, 3 October), David Cook at Kettering BC rightly drew attention to the relative low level of districts on recent shortlists.

Kettering's success in 2003 is truly on e it should be proud of and it should act as an inspiration to us all.

However, I am sceptical about the assumption that the only reason districts do not appear on the shortlists is because they do not apply. As the process is not transparent we have no way of knowing how many districts actually apply yet do not get shortlisted. Unless this information is made available we will have to satisfy ourselves with measuring success rather than engagement.

Ian Kavanagh

Assistant chief executive, Northampton BC

Flattered to be first

We read with interest your article 'Essex joins the shopping spree' (E-government, September) and we wish the six councils that have come together to form a marketplace in Essex every success.

However, we feel we should point out this is far from the first 'example of

e-procurement collaboration across a number of councils' that the article

claims.

As long ago as 2001, six London boroughs joined a pathfinder project

that would lead to the creation of The London Marketplace. During this time

we have collaborated on a number of

e-procurement activities, including:

??? A joint tender for paper, led by Lewisham LBC in conjunction with current members of The London Marketplace - the resulting contract is available to any council that joins the marketplace

??? An innovative approach to the procurement of temporary staff

??? Lewisham, Newham and Tower

Hamlets LBCs are using The London Marketplace to source social services temporary staff against jointly tendered framework agreements with 18 agencies.

We believe we have pioneered the development of council e-marketplaces in England. It is true that imitation is the finest form of flattery and we are flattered to be imitated.

Hassan Iqbal

Acting group manager, strategic finance and advice, Lewisham LBC

Satisfying to be second

The six councils involved in Essex Marketplace featured in your article 'Essex joins the shopping spree (E-government, September), are to be c ongratulated on their achievement.

However, I was surprised to read that 'this is the first time I have seen an example of e-procurement collaboration across a number of councils'. Kirklees is the lead authority for the Roses Marketplace, an e-procurement collaboration involving nine councils in the north of England. The marketplace went live in 2002, and is now processing over £20k worth of catalogue orders per week. We are working to increase both the number of suppliers and purchasers which will increase the volume dramatically.

As well as joint planning and implementation, particular collaborative activities have included:

??? Working together to attract large suppliers by creating critical mass

??? A reverse e-auction for paper conducted by Chorley BC and Preston City Council on behalf of the Roses Marketplace.

Savings are being demonstrated in several councils, and may I recommend to councils who wish to find out more, particularly in the north of England, to look out for our dissemination event on 9 December in Leeds.

Dick Hewitson

Director of finance, Kirklees MBC

League of gentlemen

I was surprised to read your claim that the National Coal Board did not leave much of a legacy to UK management practice (LGC, 3 October).

Professor Reg Reavons was far from making the only NCB contribution to management. Ernst Schumacher was employed by the NCB for 20 years. His 'small is beautiful' provides many valuable nostrums for local government managers.

Even closer to home, Professor John Stewart emerged from the NCB, armed with enough theories to dominate local government management thinking for three decades.

Rodney Brooke

Chair, General Social Care Council

Load of old jargon

Perhaps your jargon buster needs to try harder if enlightenment is the intention. Action-centred learning, which featured last week, has come a long way since Reg Reavons started it . . . about the only accurate statement in your piece.

The technique is now called action lear ning - it has nothing to do with

brain-storming, but much to do with problem solving, personal and organisational development and rapid, practical learning. Action learning sets work across sectors, usually at chief executive or director level, providing a confidential, structured approach to each individual's needs.

In the UK sets have included NHS and local government senior managers, public, private and independent participants, and evaluation by set members is rarely less than glowing.

Some councils and other large organisations use in house sets as an essential part of their management development programmes, or to support complex projects. Both external and internal sets often continue without a facilitator once the members are

confident about the technique and protocols.

There are lots of skilled practitioners in the UK. The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers offers sets for new chief executives, and a number of individuals and consultancies are recognised as excellent providers.

Jargon busting is useful, but only when it is accurate.

Di Bligh

Consultant

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