If you don’t know where the money comes from, where it goes and who decides – and how – you are unlikely to get anywhere with the whole ‘transformation’ thing
|You have a basic idea of how much the council spends, on what, where the money comes from and how decisions are made about it.||You have a detailed and nuanced view of the current budget processes and priorities, in this confusing CovidWorld, with an understanding of what the options are, which ones are likely to get favoured. You have some understanding of previous budget processes and how other comparable local authorities do things.||You can dive into the weeds and go toe-to-toe with the Exec Member for Finance and the City Treasurer on paragraph 6, subsection 4, without losing the bigger picture. You can compare and contrast with other local authorities in fine detail, and make concrete proposals about how things could be much less crap||They try to find a pretext to bar you from the Town Hall: your forensic, historically and geographically nuanced view of the mistakes in the current budget proposals and the processes and thinking that led everyone to the Bad Place, are seen as an existential threat to the careers of several (self)Important People.|
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The reasons these are not well understood. Number one, councils don’t want to make it particularly clear, because then everyone’s gonna have an opinion. Number two, it’s not in the culture of many activist groups, civil society It groups to look at the budget and the budget process in the round, they tend to be more concerned with whether their particular issue has received funding or not. And if they haven’t, then it’s personalised as this particular officer or elected politician has not got concerned about issue X or Y.
The consequences are that you’re constantly bamboozled. And that you can’t force the council to be really explicit about how it’s allocating money and how it’s making the decisions and how those decisions are being scrutinised. If indeed, they are being scrutinised.
The fixes involved doing some hard work, of educating yourselves and in that process, hopefully, educating other people about not just which money is getting spent on which issue, but overall the historical trajectories of where local authority money comes from. And that’s been shifting over the last 10 years, how its allocated, and of course, what’s likely to happen in the future. And part of the problem there is who the hell knows because COVID-19