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Hazel Blears: Local people key to unlocking greater savings

Published 6 May 2009

Councils must listen to the views of local people to work smarter and make greater efficiency savings, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said today.

In the Budget, the Chancellor confirmed that councils will need to make £600m efficiency savings a year - to be used to reinvest in local services or cut council tax bills.

This is alongside the £5bn worth of efficiency savings to be made across the public sector over the next year alone.

In a speech to council and community leaders, Ms Blears said that asking people what they want can lead to better services tailored to local needs - at a lower cost to the council taxpayer.

She also said that those neighbourhoods that work closely together and support each other will emerge stronger from this economic downturn.

Hazel Blears said:

"We are living through turbulent economic times, with families and communities across the country feeling the effects of the recession. But I couldn't agree less with those who argue that this is the time to keep your head down and stick with the status quo.

"Councils are already working hard to make taxpayers' money go further. But the need to do this more does not mean doing less - it means doing things differently.

"Tough times make empowering local people to get involved in their local communities even more important. Asking people what they want helps them deliver better services - at a lower cost for the taxpayer."

There are already excellent examples of councils achieving efficiency savings through working smarter and listening to the views of local people. Camden Council adopts a commonsense way of checking their services are easily accessible to disabled people by asking local disabled people to be "mystery shoppers", saving 86 per cent compared to using consultants.

Northamptonshire maximises scarce resources through a "Pocket Parks" scheme, giving local people control over the green spaces in their neighbourhood. It means that every £1 the council invests generates and supports £8 worth of volunteer effort, currently totalling over £300,000 per year.

Hazel Blears added:

"Involving communities are key to unlocking greater savings - when it comes to finding efficiencies, empowering local people is part of the solution, not part of the problem."

Notes to editors

1. Hazel Blears has announced a new single helpline for community organisations and councils interested in taking ownership of a local building. Details were published on 28 April 2009, and can be found at www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1213182.

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