December 14th, 2013 |
“I always thought, I want to go around sixty”
Paul Warren, who is about to retire as the District Council’s Cheif Executive, has given a lengthy interview to Rochford Life magazine. It’s worth a read.
Here’s an extract, about council tax and grass cutting:
RL: I think what you are saying is that because you have managed it so well, people aren’t aware of the cutbacks.
Paul: Yes, if you look at the average property in Rochford, a Band-
D property, and you look at the overall Council Tax bill, the District Council element of that is 12%- 13% i.e. in a Band- D property only £205 of your bill comes to Rochford. When I do staff talks I say, if I was to give you £205 what would you go out and be able to buy? For £205 in effect, we collect your rubbish, we clean the streets, we provide open spaces, we provide leisure centres, we process planning applications, we send out bills and handle housing benefits and Council Tax, we inspect food premises and we do a variety of other things. For £205 I think that’s a pretty good deal! I’m not sure people perceive it in that way.
The more I think about it the more I think I’d be in favour of a local taxation system because you could probably have more debate and exposure around what you are getting for your money, and you could always offer people a choice: do you want your verges cut fifteen times a year and if you do that will cost you £X and that equates to that on the Council Tax, or are you happy to get away with ten cuts which will cost you £Y. We went through a period, which was not actually of our own making but it lead to some interesting learning exercises for us, when our grounds maintenance contractor went into liquidation. I remember the day well when I got the phone call and my immediate thought at that stage – because they did our cemeteries – have we got any burials today because we could have some problems! Suffice it to say we’ve been through a range of issues around developing a new grounds maintenance contract and getting the appropriate contractor in place.
RL: You mention verge cutting. Is grass cutting a big issue?
Paul: Well, we have gone through some interesting learning exercises around verge cutting because highway verges are a County Council function. This means they should be cutting them, but they pass it to us and they only give us enough money for one and a half cuts a year! This comes to about £30,000. Originally we were spending £200,000 on this so the members then have a debate, do we spend all this money on something that’s really not our responsibility but which looks nice, so we’ve been trying to work out what is the appropriate number of cuts for the money. When we’ve employed temporary contractors, or the weather hasn’t been good, or the cutting hasn’t been perfect, the number of complaints we’ve had has spiked through the roof. This comes back to public expectation which is high. So for members there is a dilemma, the cake is shrinking, and we have all these services, and so do you reduce services or reduce quality of some of them and so on?…