Speak up for Libraries:
Influencing council decision makers
Councillor Alan Waters.
Financial Context
Headline reduction of 7.1% of formula grant funding per
annum over four years
The funding reduction is “front loaded” for local councils,
flat for police authorities and “back loaded” for fire
Major changes in funding mechanisms from 1 April 2013
Every council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy will
include the need to make significant savings
Further cuts of c. 7% to be announced in the Autumn
The Pickles Plan
Reason for the frontloaded cuts
It is important that local government restructure its
administration and its services, and the only real way
to do that is to start the process early on’
Eric Pickles – CLG Select Committee 2010
Councils should be ‘commissioners’ not ‘providers’ of services.
The Localism Act
The Localism Act
• Community Right to Challenge –
bidding to run council services
• Community Right to Bid – taking over
assets of ‘community value’
‘Your Community Rights’:
Community Rights:
“It enables communities to challenge to
take over local service that they think
they can run differently and better. The
Right to Challenge could be used to run
a wide range of local services”.
(Your Community Rights)
DCLG Consultation February 2011
Community Right to Challenge: ability to
protect public services?
Local authority must accept or reject an
‘expression of interest’ and give grounds for
doing so.
Local authority in coming to a judgement must
“ consider how it might promote or improve the
social economic or environmental well-being of
the authority’s area” -Section 83 (8) of the Act.
Understand your Council
There is a need to understand how your
Council operates..
They are not all the same
There are different ways of looking at this
Whether friendly and receptive or not
knowing how they operate and what makes
them tick is really important
Local Authorities
What are there constitutional
What is the Political composition? Are
they politically vulnerable?
Informal arrangements and culture
Scrutiny arrangements
Public interface arrangements
Constitutional arrangements
Committee system
Elected Mayor, Leader and Cabinet (who selects
the Cabinet)
In all Councils Audit and Regulatory Committees
are committees of the Council
Levels of Delegation. Single Member Decision
making powers. Officer delegations
Definition of Key decisions (will be found in their
Political Composition
Majority Party Control
Minority Party Control
Coalition arrangements
Balance of Political Groups
Next Election (1/3rds of All out
Electoral Vulnerability
Is majority group cohesive or divided?
Informal/Non Constitutional
Member led or Officer Led
Strong or weak leader
Strong or weak Executive/Cabinet
Advisory Committees?
Significance of Party Groups
Reactive or Proactive
Strategy Led or Policy led
Timid or Adventurous
Role of Scrutiny
Strong or marginalised
Active in Pre Decision scrutiny?
Active in Post Decision Scrutiny
Call in Procedures
Is Call in effective in changing decisions
Public Interface
Deputations and Petitions and arrangements
to receive
Public question opportunities?
Public speaking to agenda items
Consultation events
Levels of decision taking
How high or low?
Nothing happens without the authority of the Chief
Many key decisions are taken well down the ‘food
chain’ without reference ‘upstairs’
Climate and culture of delegation and effective
decision making
Corporate or Departmentalist
• Some Councils in reality resemble 3, 4 or more
different Councils
• Others are very corporate in their make up,
composition and culture
• The role of the Chief Officers Group may be
Working with Formal Structures(1)
Making Use of scrutiny
Presenting evidence to review groups
Using call in procedures
Some Councils allow electors to call in decisions
or it may have to be via a member or a number
of members.
Matter of days after a decision. Check constitution
Working with Formal Structures(2)
Petitions and Deputations and Committee
and Council Meetings
Most Councils have facilities to receive and
hear petitions and deputations
Public question opportunities. Speaking
rights on agenda items
Make use of these very public forums
Working with Formal Structures (3)
The Media
Some Councils are extremely sensitive to
articles and letters in the local media
The letters page is the most widely read
page of local newspapers
Not forgetting local broadcast media
Working with Formal Structures (4)
Meeting Key Decision Makers
Leaders rarely turn down a request for a
Cabinet Portfolio holders
Officers more likely to refer you to formal
Working with Formal Structures (5)
Keep abreast of decisions and strategies as
they are developing/made
Know and understand the role of the
Forward Plan
Research and be proactive
Many Councils are struggling and actually
searching for solutions to problems
Understanding the policy making and budget
setting cycle.
All elected members play a role –
The ruling group or coalition on the council
Cabinet members
The opposition groups on the council
Scrutiny members
Ward Councillors
Corporate Plan and Budget has to be
agreed by the full council.
Making decisions
Crucial to have high quality –
quantitative and qualitative information
to inform the political priorities of the
The Financial
The Financial
Management Process
Management Process
The Corporate Plan
The Corporate Plan
The Annual
Relating to the Budget Process
Andrew Coulson 2005
Initial Projections
Review Baseline Budget –
In Strategic Context
Identify known Pressures
January – February
Identification of Savings,
Efficiency Measures, and Alternatives
Capital Programme, Including
Prudential borrowing
Government Settlement
Budget formulated
Budget agreed by Council
Other than elected mayors, all Councillors
represent a particular ward.
Map your membership to Wards and Cllrs
Most Cllrs will have Ward surgeries. Often Drop in
All are subject to election every four years
Sensitive to their own electorates
Make use of your role as electors
In Conclusion
Councils are there to be influenced
They are democratic bodies often highly sensitive to
Many have elections every year
Your campaign members will have electoral power
You need to know and understand the Council, its
personalities and its structures
Make use of opportunities
In the end personal dynamics are often the key

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