It is inevitable that cuts have to be made within RCT as with every other Council in Wales. The anger is being caused by the apparent determination of the Labour Cabinet to make these cuts to front line services that affect those least able to fight back, the young and the elderly. As we have already said we think this in in part a political move as they try and blame the Westminster Government for the cuts, every comment every press release written by taxpayer funded PR officers tries to lead residents down this path.
It is difficult to come up with precise alternatives as RCT Council work behind closed doors and the full financial information required to enable Councillors to scrutinise decisions effectively is kept secret. They also keep mentioning further cuts ahead in the next few weeks, when surely the sensible approach would have been to lay all options on the table to start with.
So at this stage we can only identify areas that we would want to look more closely at. Some we have already talked about. Major cutbacks to PR department for instance, it is very difficult to see how that level of staffing can be justified. Alongside that RCT Council spend a significant amount on advertising - just short of £200,000 on advertising and service level agreements with GTFM radio and local papers each year. Either produce Outlook magazine or advertise on radio / in press not both.
Stop what appears to be an excessive use of outside consultants for jobs which surely the Officers should be capable of doing in departments especially such as legal and HR Officers. Why employ so called specialists if they have to constantly ask for external opinion?.
Look at a major overhaul of management. There is currently a Chief Exec and under him Group Directors who preside over Heads of Service then on down the ranks. Is there a need for them all? Surely there is a case to be made for removing one tier of management? More people on the front line would have more of a positive effect on public services.
We do not agree with Plaid Cymru's suggestion that all employees be dropped to a 35 hour working week - that would once again unfairly hit lower paid workers who have already been hit by the Labour Council's changes to terms and conditions which only affected those earning under £42,000 a year.
A number of residents have honed in on Councillors allowances and are demanding cuts there. Again we have made our position clear with regard to this in the past. We do not believe that the basic allowance is excessive given the responsibilities Councillors face in an organisation the size of RCT.
We do take some issue with the Cabinet and leader's salary which are supposed to be full time salaries and recompense for the significant responsibilities they should be undertaking. We do not think in RCT the Members currently in those positions actually do the job as it should be done - too many decisions are left to officers, Cabinet Members are only seen when there is good news to deliver never facing up to dissent.
We also think that the Council should cut back on the number of special responsibility allowances paid to Labour Cllrs by having fewer committees therefore fewer Chairs and Vice Chairs.
In conjunction with all of this there needs to be stringent efficiency savings across the board -little things like sending out single sheets of paper in A4 envelopes all add up. Someone needs to look at the Council, and indeed all public services, with more of a business eye. Public services cannot be run as private businesses in all aspects as they are there to provide services and not make a profit, but lessons could be learned as far as day to day savings are concerned.