Suffolk council staff employed just to do statistics - but not in Norfolk
Shaun LowthorpeNorfolk and Suffolk may be neighbouring counties but the approach of their two top tier councils to dealing with red tape appears to be miles apart.Figures released by Suffolk County Council show that the authority employs up to 100 staff full-time to prepare statistics for the Audit Commission watchdog.Shaun Lowthorpe
Norfolk and Suffolk may be neighbouring counties but the approach of their two top tier councils to dealing with red tape appears to be miles apart.
Figures released by Suffolk County Council show that the authority employs up to 100 staff full-time to prepare statistics for the Audit Commission watchdog.
It is estimated that the aver age salary of those involved in this work is more than �30,000 a year - meaning that the wage bill for preparing statistics for government monitors is more than �3m a year.
The revelations come as the new government looks set to wield the axe on many Whitehall quangos as part of a package of measures to push powers back to councils and cut red tape.
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By contrast, Norfolk County Council says there are no teams dedicated solely to Audit Commission work, but staff work on reports as part of their ongoing work.
Earlier this month, it emerged that Suffolk's chief executive Andrea Hill wrote two memos to staff attacking the management culture at the authority.
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'We have an overly complex and sophisticated organisation that will not be fit for purpose in the new era,' Mrs Hill wrote. 'In particular, inspection monitoring, performance management, scrutiny, risk and audit have begun to dominate the local government culture to such an extent that our council is more focused on the regulator than the customer.'
However her remarks are sure to raise questions that the authority is softening up people to a jobs cull in the wake of tightening budgets and shift in national policy.
County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said the amount of work that needed to monitor and scrutinise its work remained a huge problem as it tries to provide services more efficiently.
Mr Pembroke said: 'That kind of figure shows you just how much time and effort we have to put into this kind of work - time and effort that would be better employed working for the people of Suffolk.
'There needs to be some accountability but it needs to be light-touch. The people of Suffolk have the chance to judge whether we're doing a good job for them every four years.'
As council budgets came under pressure, he said he was hopeful that the new government would allow authorities to concentrate on providing services rather than monitoring what they were doing.
Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, which is already undergoing an organisational shake-up ahead of any funding cuts, said: 'There are several teams and people who count preparing reports for the Audit Commission among their responsibilities, but this is just one aspect of their job and so it would be impossible to put a figure on it. No one is employed specifically and solely to prepare statistics and reports for the Audit Commission at the county council.'