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Plenty to be cheerful about

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We mustn't forget some remarkable achievements, says the LGC editor.

This week a northern chief executive laid down a challenge. In all the economic doom local government is not in bad shape, he said. In fact, it is a good place to be and that’s what LGC should be writing about.

Not everyone will share this chief’s optimism. Those local authorities battling with the rising costs of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) may struggle to see much of a silver lining.

The costs of rebuilding every secondary school in England is much more than anticipated, with councils bearing the brunt.

With capital squeezed, authorities will become increasingly reluctant to enter a programme that will drain resources, particularly when the most run-down schools have already been targeted.

Priorities inevitably shift in hard times, leaving one of Labour’s flagship education schemes vulnerable to the economic slowdown.

So in a climate of increasing pressures, what is it that keeps this chief executive smiling through the gloom? Never ones to shirk a challenge, we started looking for reasons why local government is a good place to be.

For a start, it’s not on the same tidal wave as the rest of the economy, although the ripples are certainly being felt in schemes such as BSF.

In terms of performance there’s much more to smile about. In the past three years councils have smashed their efficiency targets and saving£3.45bn is good preparation for harder times.

The stellar progress through the comprehensive performance assessment is proof of high-quality service delivery, targeting resources at the most needy. How else would councils now be able to offer interest-free loans and debt advice to families so speedily?

It’s worth mentioning the family intervention projects, the youth crime initiatives, the increase in recycling rates, all of which help to buoy up struggling communities.

So it might be gloomy in parts, but local government really is a good place to be. Perhaps we should remember that in the next 12 months.

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