There’s an urban legend about a B-52 being escorted to a show by a fighter jet. The jet pilot is showing off, pulling off daring manoeuvres and boasting to pilot of the B-52. Eventually the bomber’s pilot agrees to show what he can do, yet after several minutes of apparently nothing happening the fighter pilot radios the B-52 to ask exactly what manoeuvre they’ve performed. The radio crackles back: “we’ve shut down two engines.”
Local government in England has achieved much over its history: building railways, roads and canals, opening the first public hospitals and state schools, creating telephone exchanges and major utilities, providing civic institutions and becoming the largest housing providers for their areas. Yet, looking back over recent years, success for councils isn’t to be measured in buildings and infrastructure, but in managing to continue delivering the same level of service despite losing half their income: we’ve shut down two engines, yet we’re still flying straight and level.
Despite being recognised as the most efficient part of the public sector before 2010, we have faced the harshest cuts of any part of Government over the period since. For all the talk of private sector efficiency, it’s hard to think of any business which could adapt in the same way to losing 50% of their income over such a short period of time.
Change hasn’t been easy, it’s a testament to the commitment of public sector workers that they’ve worked so hard to continue delivering for our community in such difficult circumstances. From drastically improving the efficiency of the organisation through our transformation programme to creatively using council assets to generate new income, Crawley is managing to meet the challenge. Yet, everything has its limits and Government must remember the importance of local services before we’re forced to move beyond them.