This morning I was up at Local Government House (formerly Transport House, the headquarters of both the T&G and the Labour Party) for a meeting with other council leaders and senior officers. The Local Government Association (LGA) have only just moved back into the building, following works which will enable the lower floors to be let out, reducing the cost to its member councils.
Despite having been the most efficient part of the public sector for decades, from every angle local government is becoming more efficient and that was the exact reason for my meeting there today. Like any organisation, councils have to take out insurance to protect themselves from a whole range of risks, we spend a lot of money on insurance as a sector and the evidence suggests we’re not getting good value for what we pay out.
The LGA is looking to see if councils could instead form a mutual, designing coverage which would be better suited to the needs and demands of the sector and saving us money in the process. Unlike past attempts, real thought has gone into the ways in which we can ensure a major claim or an uncontrolled spate of claims wouldn’t put member councils at risk. As a member of the Co-operative Party the idea of a mutual really appeals to me and anything we can do to save money on insurance without increasing our risk is money which can be spent ensuring the town gets the services it needs. It’s early days, but along with around a dozen other councils we’re working as a board to try and see if we can get something practical off the ground. It only goes to show, even in the midst of Tory austerity where there’s a will, there’s a way.