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Blog from Paul O'Brien

April 10, 2017
What really makes a place somewhere that people want to live and make investment in?

It’s the infrastructure and facilities, it’s the look and the feel, it’s the local environment and how safe and secure the area is. At a time when we are trying to attract people to our localities and communities, are we cutting back on the very things that make places habitable, those very highly visible and publically recognised neighbourhood services?


We know that local authority expenditure in the UK will be 30% less by 2020, than it was in 2010, we also know that in England local government finance will have moved to a much more local financing model by that point. Under current Government plans most councils will be almost fully dependant on a mixture of council tax and business rates revenue, alongside a small amount of other grants and income generated through commercial activity.
 

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Tags: place, APSE, Neighbourhoods, Local government, local economies
February 19, 2017
Broken homes

Well it appears as if we are back at Groundhog Day again on housing policy, another white paper acknowledging that we have a major housing crisis in the UK but with limited ideas about how we fix it.

What we do have is some comforting words. Government has ‘listened ‘it wants to ‘help’ to ‘support’.  But when we peel back the comforting language what lurks beneath? Well very little that we can rely upon. Whilst I appreciate that running alongside the white paper is a series of consultations it is a missed opportunity to put some tangible solutions forward.
 
APSE, alongside our research partners in the TCPA, are working on our third tranche of housing research. Time and again we find that the root cause of the housing crisis is the lack of supply of new build, the mix of properties that are being built and in particular the lack of affordable homes. We have consistently called for a strengthened role for local councils to deliver homes for rent on scale to alleviate the strain at the bottom end of the housing ladder.

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Tags: Housing, housing companies, housing crisis, APSE
December 22, 2016
Power to the people - devolve to local government and let us get on with it

Councils could be forgiven for wondering if Government remains as committed to devolution and decentralisation of power, post Brexit, as it appeared to be before June’s vote.

What started well and seemed to have support at the highest level of Government, with George Osborne’s zealot like enthusiasm, doesn’t appear to have the same prominence with new cabinet figures, indeed some fear that the agenda could simply fizzle out.

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Tags: devolution, Local government, APSE, Housing, transport, Skills, employment, economic growth
October 31, 2016
How commercialisation is evolving and developing in local government

Commercialisation strategy 1.0 was very much about trading and charging, using some surplus capacity or getting additional benefits from assets during the 1980’s. Fast forward to today and version 10.0.3 of that strategy is hugely different in scope and range.


Of course local authorities face huge financial challenges, not least an intention by Government to almost completely remove RSG by 2020, however impractical and unfeasible this may appear for many areas of the country.


 

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Tags: Commercialisation, Local government, public finance, APSE, Tom Peters, Richard Branson, Jack Welch
September 6, 2016
Don't let a Government damp squib stop our efforts on public health

The recent launch of the much delayed Childhood Obesity Strategy turned out to be something of a damp squib after being trailed as one of the most important health initiatives of our time.


With voluntary targets set to cut sugar in children’s food and drink by 5%, ultimately rising to 20% and a threat that Government will ‘consider alternative levers, if insufficient progress is being made’, the language of ‘should, might and we encourage’ is hardly going to promote a rush by suppliers in the food industry away from sugary drinks and junk food.


 

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Tags: obesity, Public health, public finances, Local government, parks, Leisure, school meals, APSE
July 20, 2016
Rebuilding trust between communities and the establishment

Greg Clark’s speech to the LGA, shortly before the Government reshuffle took place, showed that Government have begun to recognise that a disconnect exists between the prevailing orthodoxy in Westminster on public opinion and the realities of life at a community level.


Following the seismic events of the last few weeks, which have shaken the political establishment to its core, it’s going to take more than a few soundbites and platitudes to appease the public.


 

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Tags: Local government, APSE, Government, public finances, local government finance
July 11, 2016
School meals, public health and finance - a difficult mix

School meals funding in England currently comes from a variety of sources; free school meals and Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) are funded via local authorities with money from Government. For other students, parents or guardians are expected to foot the bill. Many local authorities continue to subsidise the cost of school meals, though the number able to do this is decreasing rapidly.

 

As is evident in APSE’s latest finance report, ‘Sustainable local government finance and liveable local areas’, it looks likely that by 2020, council combined current and capital spending will be at its lowest level since before 1948. It is increasingly evident that education catering may only survive in many local areas where it is capable of being able to fully recover the costs of the services. However, in spite of the parlous state of funding for school meals, it is an important contributor to the wider role of local authorities in public health.

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Tags: school meals, local government finance, Public health, public finances, obesity
May 27, 2016
Homes for all: Ensuring councils can deliver the homes we need

APSE's report ‘Homes for all: Ensuring councils can deliver the homes we need’, was launched last week at Parliament. It was a timely reminder of the role local government could play in tackling the housing crisis facing the UK.


Unfortunately the passing of the hugely controversial Housing and Planning Act the day before was a reminder that the current Government don’t see the direct involvement of councils as part of the long term solution. Their preference is clearly to pursue the notion of a home owning democracy, irrespective of whether the public want this or the housing market can deliver it. This approach ignores the many groups in society most in need of affordable homes and who are unlikely to ever be in a position to achieve home ownership or funds for a starter home.


 

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Tags: Housing, APSE, TCPA, housing crisis, housing companies
May 13, 2016
Promoting liveability in austere times

It is easy to imagine the catastrophic impact of a collapsed social care system. Frail old people left alone; a vulnerable child left without vital support. It is these very real threats that have kept alive the debate on funding social care. However less than 5% of our local population will experience social care, compared to the vast majority of local residents that rely upon on our neighbourhood level ‘liveability’ services.

On a daily basis virtually all citizens will walk in a well-lit local street. Many will drive on local roads, take their children to play in a local park, or go for a swim in a council-run pool. Local businesses benefit from public realm within local high streets. Residents will experience refuse and recycling collections provided directly to their own homes.

 

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Tags: APSE, Local government, public finance, local government finance
April 11, 2016
Let's build housing again

The Housing and Planning Bill, winging its way through Parliament is proving less than popular, whilst a series of amendments attempt to temper the worst excesses, there is a fundamental flaw in the Bill and that is the very policy premise upon which it is based.

For a number of years successive governments have sort to rely upon market driven solutions to the housing crisis, wedded to the idea of a ‘home owning democracy’. In reality, we have many people on low and middle incomes who will never be able to afford their own home and have no real interest in doing so, yet we have failed to support an affordable rental sector.

 

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Tags: Housing, Local government, APSE

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit local government body working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.

           

 

          

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