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VIDEO: Hard times drive innovation

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It's time to pool resources and now we need some shining examples, says LGC editor Karen Day.

lt’s small wonder our news pages are dominated by the dramatic impact of the economic downturn this week.

There isn’t one section of business or the public sector that hasn’t felt the disastrous ripples of the credit crunch, with spiralling commodity costs, job losses and millions of pounds wiped off the stock market.

For councils it comes at a time of minimum financial manoeuvre, with preparations for year two of the three-year funding settlement underway.

It would be a miracle of epic proportions if the government shifted on the funding already outlined or eased council tax capping, so with the added pressures of the downturn, 2009-10 looks grim.

Authorities are starting to reforecast capital budgets to mitigate rising energy costs. Programmes such as Building Schools for the Future no longer represent a funding windfall but a cost curse as construction prices rocket.

On the revenue side, there’s the problem of rising food bills across a range of services. Our survey of 500 councillors this week also gives a hint of the anxieties, with 63% stating that the three-year funding settlement looks a lot worse 12 months on.

But here at LGC we like to look at situations in the round, finding glimmers of opportunity for our readers. And hard times do drive innovation and collaboration.

We first reported back in July that a group of 30 councils were planning to club together to play the markets to bulk-buy oil.

This week we find that with flexible and aggregated procurement councils could shave at least 10% off their annual£1.3bn fuel bill.

Staffordshire CC is considering bailing out cash-strapped developers by buying land off them, and authorities are also moving up a notch on the money markets, being among a golden few with reserves to play with.

Times are hard but there are glimmers out there for savvy authorities to help mitigate the next turbulent 12 months.

So, in this spirit we urge you to tell us about your innovations and we’ll help pass them on to the rest of the local government community.

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