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SAVINGS CONFUSION SIDELINES LGA

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By Kerry Lorimer, finance editor ...
By Kerry Lorimer, finance editor

Councils are being shut out of government discussions on efficiency because of confusion within Whitehall over how the savings should be achieved.

Several major departments, including the Department for Education & Skills and the Department for Transport, have failed to respond to calls from the Local Government Association for 'early and meaningful' council involvement in the process.

Government departments are drawing up implementation plans to indicate how they intend to realise the£6.45bn savings demanded of councils by chancellor Gordon Brown (LGC, 6 August).

The LGA has written to permanent secretaries within each department seeking council involvement, but sources close to the discussions say progress has been slow.

One said: 'Not many are being forthcoming. They are not saying they won't share their thoughts, just that they don't want to do it just yet.'

Resistance from the DfES has caused particular concern as education will account for around half of the expected efficiency savings within local government.

Sarah Wood, director of economic and environmental policy at the LGA, said early involvement by councils in the process was 'crucial'. She said: 'The last thing we want is for the government to send down a fait accompli to local authorities.'

But she said some departments had postponed discussions with local government because they had yet to get

their heads round the enormity of the task at hand.

'Some departments are struggling with the complexity of the issue, they are struggling to get their own thinking in order,' she said.

Areas such as children's services, which would have tie-ins with a number of different departments, are especially complex, she added.

Kerry.lorimer@emap.com

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