No doubt the Lifting the Burdens Taskforce announced by Ruth Kelly (LGC, 6 July) will be welcomed as a sea-change in the relationship between central and local government. The taskforce signals a long awaited dialogue not simply on the burdens of reporting but on the whole balance of centralist control over localised matters. 'Earned autonomy' to 'presumed autonomy' as Ms Kelly has stated.
However, a headlong rush to bin all targets will not necessarily be in the best interest of local government. We need to acknowledge that performance information has served a useful purpose in creating a cultural shift in management. In order to make progress, councils must at least acknowledge where their baseline is. Without performance information it is difficult to assess what the direction of travel is.
Lean and mean
Jim Corry is spot on when he argues the starting point for shared services has to be tackling the waste inherent in any process (LGC, 6 July). At St Edmundsbury, we're redesigning our revenues and benefits service and have identified up to 70% of waste - driven mainly by inappropriate ICT, a mass of targets and numerous inspection regimes. The redesigned service will be lean, tailored to customer demand and world class. Not a call centre in sight either.
Dr Carlton Brand
Corporate director, resources,
St Edmundsbury BC
There has been much in the press about waste charging. The theory behind 'pay by weight' for waste collection and disposal is sound, but there are a number of awkward financing issues.
Three come easily to mind. First, although waste management costs are rising, they are still a small proportion of what authorities spend overall, so even if a household did reduce their waste it would only gain a very small rebate on their council tax or other financial reward.
Second, there are the costs of implementation, management and administration of any 'pay by weight' systems.
Third, while an additional charge could be designed in a way that encouraged changes in behaviour, it still has the dreaded additional taxation label.
Perversely, delivering more sustainable waste management is in no way an insurmountable problem - the technologies are out there. However, solutions will come at a cost and, given the desire to keep public spending down, that's the Gordian knot someone needs to cut.
The right message
How unlike Toulmin Smith to be perplexed (LGC, 29 June). Our educational DVD and the publicity that accompanies it was produced in collaboration with the very people at whom it was aimed; those young people who are faced with daily choices and dilemmas about what constitutes responsible behaviour. It's clearly meant to capture the attention of a group who are used to a wide variety of visual material.
The expanded role of the fire and rescue service to become part of the mainstream effort totackle anti-social behaviour is something we take seriously and we are putting our money where our mouth is.
Chief executive & chief fire officer, Kent Fire & Rescue Service
Faster to slow down
Your Knowledge section reported that Portsmouth is the first UK city to be covered by mandatory 20mph speed limits (LGC, 6 July).
Wells may not be in the Portsmouth league but its city centre has been covered by such a limit for several years. This was achieved by close working between the city council and the county highway authority.
A parable for the discussion currently raging about the future of local government perhaps?
Town clerk, Wells City Council
Meet was planned
I must clarify your article regarding the recent Association of London Government (LGC, 6 July) annual meeting.
It suggests the original meeting in June was cancelled following concerns raised by Brent council. This was not the case. It was as the result of issues raised by an individual councillor that my predecessor decided to transfer all business to the meeting already planned for 3 July.
Merrick Cockell (COn)
Chairman, Association of London Government
Please limit your letter to 200 words. LGC reserves the right to edit letters prior to publication