THE NEED FOR CHANGE
Conservative control of Bradford Metropolitan District Council will shape the form of local government in Bradford for the next decade. The institution of local government requires swift and radical reform. Bradford Metropolitan District Council is no exception to the rule.
The services we provide need to be managed more effectively. The harmful monopoly we have established in the supply of many non-essential and ancillary functions must be broken down. The people of the District must be allowed an effective choice in the nature of the services they receive. And the Council must divest its powers to allow new forms of accountability and public participation in the policy arena.
What is wrong with local government? Put simply, local government provides services at too great a cost and with too little reference to what people actually want or need. Local government fails because it is a bureaucratic system lacking proper mechanisms of accountability.
In particular, the present system of local government financial accounting, which hides the true cost of excessive local government spending, provides every incentive for both politicians and local government officers to maximise growth instead of better managing existing resources. Moreover, local government officers have grown accustomed to measuring success by the rate of expansion in the programmes of their departments and not by the efficiency and effectiveness with which they deliver their services.
The Government has recognised the inherent weakness of current local government practice. Reforms in local government finance and in the provision of services in housing and education, alongside the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering, are timely. However, further reform of local government must come from within. The Conservative group is committed to such reform.
THE CONSERVATIVE AGENDA
The Conservative programme for Bradford Metropolitan District Council has two inter-related parts. First, the organisation itself must be recast and the management processes within reshaped to meet an exacting new environment. Second, the extent and character of the services delivered must be made relevant to the real needs of the people of the District.
MANAGEMENT: STRUCTURE AND PROCESS
The present structure of the Authority acts as a constraint on change. Too many functions are directly controlled by the Authority. It will be necessary to involve the wider public in determining the nature of Council services. The Council must allow direct control over many activities to devolve to other forms of community organisation. These may include:
- public/private partnerships (e.g. community trusts)
- direct user organisations (e.g. school governing bodies or housing co-operatives)
- private associations (e.g. housing associations)
By implication, the role of the Council as the direct provider of many of its services is to be challenged. Furthermore, competitive tendering will allow private companies the chance to compete with the Council's in-house team for the opportunity to provide services to the public.The management process within the Authority reflects the growth oriented budget maximising ethos still prevalent within local government and remains too firmly geared to the static and formal organisational structures of committees. Under Conservative control, the management style of local government officers in Bradford is set to change. A new breed of manager, one who can manage resources, personnel and relationships with external organisations, is required. The Conservative group will create the framework in which the new manager can effectively operate:
- top managers will be placed on performance related pay
- managers will be obliged to operate within cash limited budgets
- managers will be free to determine conditions of employment for their own staff
- budgetary control will be devolved to the level of Service Delivery Units
- financial and personnel management will be decentralised
- services provided between organisations internal to the authority will be put on a contractual basis
- the financial burden on service providers of central establishment charges will be reduced
POLICY: A RELEVANT PROGRAMME
Changes in the structure and management style of the Council are necessary to meet the Conservative policy agenda. The Conservative programme is radical, and relevant to the needs of the people of the District in the 1990's.
Local Government Finance
Members and officers of the Council should look after the interests of the local community which they were either appointed or elected to serve, maintaining and improving essential services at a price people can afford.
The Conservative group has pledged to:
- reduce the growth in council spending
- redirect resources to essential services
- ensure value for money
- make local government more accountable to those who finance it
The entire system of local government finance is in need of reform. There is no credible alternative to the Government's proposals to introduce a community charge and uniform business rate, while simplifying the grants system. These reforms shall be implemented with the minimum of fuss, minimum of delay and minimum of expense.
The practice of competitive tendering will be introduced throughout the Authority.
The Conservative group has pledged to:-
- phase the introduction of competitive tendering, but accelerate the schedule recently announced by the Government
- extend the regime of competitive tendering beyond those activities defined in Government legislation
- ensure that the tendering process reflects the need for this Council to get the best service at the best price.
Education Reform Act
- Lobby for the establishment of a City Technology College in the District
- respect the freedom of parents to send their children to fee paying schools
- end the influence of political dogma in the teaching of our children
- review the role and purpose of the Authority's Education Advisors
- support measures to increase the links between schools and industry
- devolve power to school governors and give them the training to be effective
- free college principals from the restraints of City Hall
The future prosperity of the District will be based on the quality of education currently provided to children in our schools. We will ensure that parental expectations of teaching and teaching methods are respected. We are determined that every child should fulfil his or her intellectual potential.EnterpriseThe Authority's role is to create the framework within which enterprise can flourish in the District. Enterprise is needed to stimulate further economic growth, maintain and expand the provision of recreation facilities and improve the District environment. Encouraging the enterprise of others is the primary objective of the newly created Directorate of Enterprise and Environment.
The Conservative group has pledged to:-
- seek private investment in Odsal Stadium, Richard Dunn Sports Centre, and other recreational facilities
- put the management of prestigious leisure facilities out to tender
- be fully involved in the new Adult Training programme
- provide the necessary resource management crucial to the success of the I.D.O.
- create and support a Community Trust with responsibility for the funding of the voluntary sector
- explore the possibility of establishing trusts to manage the art galleries and museums in the District
- reduce the Council's involvement in "municipal services"
- preserve the Green Belt
The Conservative group will continue to support the work of officers in developing tourism, liasing with business and central government on development projects and maintaining the service infrastructure of the City.
At the same time we will insist that the role of the Authority is limited to the provision of those services which cannot be adequately provided by the private sector. Sustained economic growth and environmental improvement can only be guaranteed by the industry of private individuals and private companies.
A MODEL FOR THE 1990s
The Conservative group has recognised the need for fundamental change in the practice of local government.
A new model of local government to fit this Authority for the next decade has been developed. Bradford Metropolitan District Council will revert from being primarily a direct provider of services to being an enabling authority with a strategic overview of the needs of the District.
The Authority will have a new management style and be capable of relinquishing its monopoly of service provision to allow the people to choose for themselves. Above all, the Authority will be leaner, better able to manage its resources and better equipped to ensure the effective delivery of essential services.