Sir Merrick Cockell was in positive mood last week in an extended profile in The Guardian. The new chair of the LGA was speaking about a countrywide tour visiting councils ahead of his election.
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“What you didn’t get was whingeing,” he said. “What you did get was being fired up by the opportunities, Yes, some difficult decisions, but really finding ways of doing things differently. And all of them saying, ‘This is the time to be in local government, a real opportunity here to change public services to help put our country’s economy on a safe footing’,” he said.
Indeed, most senior officers do talk in similar upbeat terms of confronting and overcoming these challenges.
But our latest confidence survey – presented over the next five pages – shows in stark terms the scale of what’s ahead. And, when we invited comments from those taking part, there was actually quite a lot of whingeing – some if which are reproduced here.
The key finding is that two-thirds of respondents believe that setting next year’s budget will be harder than the current, front-loaded, one. It’s also interesting to see in the table opposite showing relative optimism in specific policy areas.
But there’s no sense that the sector feels any more loved or understood by ministers than our last testing of the water three months ago (page XX).
Sir Merrick finished his Guardian article by saying: “Government has to deliver on a pre-election promise to devolve meaningful power from Whitehall to town and county halls.”
All our survey respondents would surely say ‘amen’ to that.