20 August 2008

Cashback if your council fails you

This story caught my eye as yet another example of how the Government is interfering with Local Government in a way that increases costs and reduces service:
  • Homeowners will be able to claim a cash refund if their local council fails to deliver key services such as emptying rubbish bins under Government plans.Payments could include £50 in shop vouchers or £10 in cash.
    Read the full story here.

This may look like a sensible idea but it is seriously flawed.

Paying refunds is very expensive and it probably costs councils something like £100 to repay £10. That £90 spent on processing and administration is simply waste and as councils' budgets are capped this has to come from other services.

Councils will also need to spend more money on detecting and preventing fraud, e.g. to confirm that bins really had not been emptied as claimed. Again this expenditure does not help to deliver services and so is more waste that we will all be paying for.

This waste will generate even more waste as officers' time will also be spent on dealing with queries from residents about the refunds, e.g. "where's my cheque?". Yet again, this effort does not help service in any way so is a cost that we will all be paying for but with no benefit in return.

But the main problem with the idea is that it does not meet customer wishes as the money does not equate to a missed service. If the bin men miss my bin then I want the council to come and empty it and if the council gives me £10 then I still want them to empty it; the compensation does not remove my requirement.

I am reasonably confident that the government will soon see how unworkable this idea is and it will be quietly dropped or, even better, never announced.

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