The Times They Are a-Changin’
Section 151 officers are all still trying to work out what scarring there will be to finances as a result of the pandemic, and what course recovery will take to what will be a new normal, says Tony Kirkham.
One eye on the data, the other on the future
Tony Kirkham explains why the delivery of this year's budget at Newcastle City Council will be the most difficult one he has worked on in his 32 year career.
Some light at the end of the tunnel
With the vaccine providing some grounds for optimism, 'maybe this is the time to look back at the lessons to learn and look forward', says Tony Kirkham.
All I want for Christmas
As an early Christmas present Tony Kirkham would like 'a clear and positive Comprehensive Spending Review which adequately reflects the demands on local government'. And he would like 'a local government settlement that allows us to meet the needs of our residents and businesses'.
Remove the ring fences
Councils are prevented from focusing on key priorities due to ringfences or restrictions on things such as the housing revenue account, says Tony Kirkham. If these were eased temporarily, councils could act in a more agile way, he adds.
Blood out of stone
Opportunities to drive out further efficiencies from councils lie in prevention and integration, but 'will take time and investment and is unlikely to deliver any benefits until the back end of the Spending Review at the earliest', says Tony Kirkham.
Most councils will find a way to balance their books
What the sector will be announcing in the coming months are cuts to spending plans, says Tony Kirkham - meaning reduced services and jobs at the time when they should be supporting people and businesses.
Please sir, I want some more
After suffering starvation for three months with his companions, Oliver Twist said: ‘Please sir, I want some more.’ Likewise, as a sector, local government must continue to ask for more, says Tony Kirkham.
Our first responsibility is to be a good ancestor
We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with Government and trust that the original commitment to ensuring councils have ‘whatever it takes’ will stand, says Tony Kirkham.
The show must go on
Tony Kirkham says that without the full backing of Government, and the surety that the money needed for the pandemic emergency will be there, 'then we will have to realign our decisions and actions within the financial restraints'.
God is in the detail
Tony Kirkham says if councils can approach the challenges of COVID-19 with the spirit and professionalism they are renowned for, the sector can move into the detailed analysis to deliver a Spending Review that benefits citizens in the medium-term.
The positive process of peer review
Tony Kirkham recently took part in a Local Government Association peer review. He says the process was intensive and hard work - but he 'enjoyed every minute'.
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is usually seen as an unlucky day, says Tony Kirkham - but he hopes the next one is 'the first step on a safe transition, starting with a budget settlement which leads to a sustainable future for local government'.
Investment is at risk from borrowing hike
Increasing the interest rate on borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board puts much-needed investment at risk and to do it without consultation doesn't say much for the relationship between local government and the Treasury, says Tony Kirkham.
What's the demand for children's social care?
In the North-East there has been a 55.7% growth in the average number of looked after children per 10,000 between 2009 and 2018. Tony Kirkham says the biggest single driver of demand would seem to be Universal Credit.
A stitch in time
English cities are trying to deal with the impact of austerity, says Tony Kirkham. But he concludes that 'applying the old proverb "a stitch in time, saves nine" may prove wise and extremely valuable'.
The art of budgeting
We need to know what extra money we are going to get in the Spending Review, not just a continuation of funding streams such as the Improved Better Care Fund (IBCF), says Tony Kirkham.
How much is enough?
If the inquiry into local government funding can establish councils need funding not only to meet their statutory requirements but also to meet the needs of their residents this could be a major step forward, argues Tony Kirkham
Our invaluable work needs to be better understood by the Government
We need to call on those in power to better understand the invaluable work we do in local government and help us deliver creativity without uncertainty, says Tony Kirkham
By no means fair enough
Tony Kirkham is concerned that the desire to deliver fair funding could end up being something we started but couldn't finish.