The All-Powerful Budget Review Working Party

The Budget Review Working Party (BRWP), formed in May 1989 and wound up in June 1996, consisted of all the committee chairs, plus the Chief Executive and City Treasurer, and had the purpose of scrutinising every budget item in every department (on a rolling programme) in order to identify possible savings. This chapter is long and has a lot of detail about the Council’s finances. For someone involved in local government finance, this level of detail may be of interest. For the layperson, it can be hard to follow, but does give a sense of how complicated the budgets are and how managing a council to keep things on track is a very complex business. The blow by blow level of detail comes from Kath being a member of the BRWG for 5 of the years covered, first in her year as Chair of Personnel Committee, then for four years in the role of Chair of Education Committee.
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Rationale and Modus Operandi
Reviewing Services for Savings
External Evaluation
2-Year, 3-Budget Strategy
Loans and Capital Receipts
Reducing Staff and Changing Wages System
Restructuring Committees and Departments
Balancing the Nitty Gritty with Grand Plans
Looking Closely at Cuts and Spending
Increased Expenditure
Away Day and Press Coverage
Setting a Budget for 1992/93
No Good News in ‘92
Planning for More Cuts in ‘93
Budget for 1993/94
Carbon Monoxide Death of a Council Tenant
Delay in Provisional Settlement for 1994/95
Staff at Risk
Value for Money Reviews
View from the Back-benches
The End of the Budget Review Working Party


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Editor’s Comments

This chapter was quite exhausting and I feel it repeats things that are mentioned in other chapters. I have added the sub-headings to try to break up such a large amount of text, but the breaks didn’t come so easily. I would have liked to have made it shorter, but what to chop? And I have ended up making it fractionally longer by adding more explanation of the BRWP in the opening paragraphs so that it works better in this standalone format. There doesn’t feel to be a story as such to this chapter just a set of things that happened. Something I observes is that throughout it seems as if Kath sees all of the issues with budgets as one long series of crises, but another way of looking at this is that is just the way it is managing a massive diverse organisation, costs always increase, efficiencies need to be found, ways of working need to be reviewed, systems need to keep up with the latest thinking and technology, and the unpredictable events of the outside world need to be responded to. That’s what happens in businesses and that’s what happens in local government. She is often bewildered by the fact that other people can be seeing a bigger picture while still managing the day to day stuff, and not only that can have big ambitions. She sees promoting the positive as being spin, without recognising focusing on the negative is also a spin, or rather both are simply filters. Perhaps I will edit my own thoughts here later?


[1] The members of the BRWP in May 1989 were Graham Stringer, Ken Barnes (Chair of Direct Works), David Black (Chair of Social Services), Val Edwards (Chair of Equal Opportunities), Andrew Fender (Chair of Planning), Kath Fry (Chair of Personnel), (Nick Harris (Chair of Finance), Brian Harrison (Chair of Economic Development), Richard Leese (Chair of Education), Dave Lunts (Chair of Housing), Peter Morrison (Chair of Art Galleries), Kath Robinson (Chair of Leisure Services), Arnold Spencer (Chair of Highways), Niel Warren (Chair of Environmental Services), and Alan Wood (representing the right-wing, although he never attended the meetings).

[2] The new City Treasurer (Jim Brooks) hadn’t been appointed at that stage. I think the previous City Treasurer had left by then and the report would have been prepared by an acting City Treasurer.

[3] For some reason imposing library charges on non-Manchester residents was also rejected by the politicians, which is strange in the context of these other cuts being contemplated.

[4] The away days were weekends at a hotel in Alderley Edge on 18/19 January and 23/24 January. The consultants were Peat Marwick.

[5] This American sporting metaphor – ‘ball-park’ – was introduced by Graham and was used regularly from then on.

[6] The Government’s SSA (Standard Spending Assessment) for Education was £164 million, but our estimated expenditure was £183 million, which meant that £19 million of cuts would be needed. £10m was to be cut from the post-16 sector in the first year, plus a further £4m in the following year.

[7] I can’t remember why just the required £30 million wasn’t borrowed, rather than £200 million, it must have been some legal/accountancy device.

[8] The last payment was in 2006/07, so it actually took only 17 years to be repaid.

[9] In Nov 1992, it was reported that 31.6% of employees were still receiving weekly cash payments and it was estimated that savings of £264,000 – £333,000 pa were possible if they went on to cashless pay, which was eventually introduced from January 1993.

[10] Eddie Turner was appointed as Director of Land and Property in August 1990

[11] Beehive clubs (play centres) in parks and park play areas were transferred to the Under Fives Division in Education (chapter 17); Grounds Maintenance was transferred to the Operational Services Department; River Valley management was transferred to the Planning Department.

[12] Rather than claiming a daily allowance for actual time spent on Council business, councillors were to receive an annual ‘salary-type’ allowance, regardless of how much or little time they spent on Council business. (see Appendix 18C for detail).

[13] In May 1990, the Highways and Planning committees were merged into one. The Trading Services Committee was abolished and so was the Economic Development Committee, but this was more to do with mirroring the changes in the departments, and a Land and Property sub-committee of P&R was re-established (chaired by Bill Egerton) for the new Land and Property Department.

[14] The members of the BRWP in May 1990 were Graham Stringer, Ken Barnes (Chair of Direct Works), Gordon Conquest (Chair of Education), Val Dunn (Chair of Personnel), Nick Harris (Chair of Service Review), Brian Harrison (Chair of Social Services), Richard Leese (Chair of Finance), Dave Lunts (Chair of Housing), Khan Moghal (Chair of Equal Opportunities), Peter Morrison (Chair of Art Galleries), Kath Robinson (Chair of Leisure Services), Arnold Spencer (Chair of Planning & Highways), Niel Warren (Chair of Environmental Services), and Alan Wood (representing the right-wing).

[15] The five roles were: 1) Corporate review of the Council’s main resources; 2) Proper functioning of decision-making processes through committees and delegations to officers (led by Vernon Cressey); 3) Improvements to efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery across the Council (led by Charmian Houslander) 4) Links between the Council and the people of the city; 5) The interface with the private sector and other public sector bodies, in relation to economic infrastructure and regeneration (including the Equalities team). This latter one was referred to as the ‘Executive Division’ – to be headed by the new Deputy Chief Executive (Howard Bernstein).

[16] In September 1991, at a joint meeting of the P&R, Finance and Leisure Services committees, it was finally recognised that achieving £1.9 million of cuts was unrealistic.

[17] In November, the draft SSA had been £408.5 million – 19.9% increase over the previous year. At the Policy & Resources committee in January 1991, the following was minuted – “(RSG) is inadequate and despite his earlier promises, the Secretary of State has done nothing to tackle the fundamental unfairness of the Poll Tax… Manchester will now receive £1.6 million less than the provisional settlement.”

[18] The membership May 1991 was almost the same as the previous year, apart from me replacing Gordon Conquest, Peter Morrison replacing Bernard Stone (Art Galleries), and Bill Egerton replacing Alan Wood.

[19] Frank Hatton House (hostel for youngsters with behavioural problems); Northfields EPH in New Moston; Heyhead View EPH in Wythenshawe; Briarfields EPH in Hulme; Platt Hall (museum); Moss Side Library; Audio-visual Library in University precinct; Manchester ticket shop; Juvenile Remand Unit; A cut of £340,000 to the grants to voluntary organisations was criticised by the Council for Voluntary Service who said it would mean – Family Welfare Association could close, losing 13 jobs; Youth Development Trust will have to disband; Relate could close; Manchester and Salford Methodist Mission day-centre for Alcoholics and Homeless could close; Catholic Welfare Volunteers could close.

[20] Any additional expenditure from one year to the next, including inflation and pay rises, was considered to be ‘growth’.

[21] Awaiting re-deployment – 101 in Education (54 re-deployed), 49 in Architects (39 re-deployed), 190 in Social Services (145 re-deployed), 48 in Recreation (17 re-deployed), 135 in Direct Works (87 re-deployed – only painters remaining to be re-deployed).

[22] Richard Lees was Chair of Finance Committee 1990-95. See Appendix 18A for full list of chairs and deputies of the Finance Committee.

[23] The person appointed to this post in early 1994 was Patricia Coleman.

[24] Clive Pickering was appointed as acting Director of Works in September 1993 and David Martin was appointed in October 1993 as City Treasurer (on a 3 year fixed-term contract).

[25] Art Galleries, Chief Executive’s, City Architect’s, City Catering, City Engineer’s, City Treasurer’s, Direct Works, Education, Housing, Land & Property, Libraries & Theatres, Operational Services, Planning, Social Services.

[26] Chaired by Richard Leese with Val Dunn as Deputy.

[27] The redeployment agreement finally ended in June 1994 and the Council returned to ‘status quo’ pre-1988 – Purple and Silver books.

[28] Children going to schools in other LA districts had to be paid for by their home district, and Manchester traditionally had larger numbers going out than coming in.

[29] The Council had been criticised by the Ombudsman for its failure to issue SEN statements to a number of children. They were not being issued because of the lack of resources to implement the statements, but this was contrary to legal advice.

[30] Chief Executive – Arthur Sandford; Director of City Works – Clive Pickering; Chief Education Officer – Roy Jobson; City Engineer & Surveyor – Sinclair McLeod; Director of Housing – Steve Mycio; Director of Libraries & Theatres – David Owen; Director of Operational Services – Robin Cordock; Director of Planning & Environmental Services – Ted Kitchen; Director of Social Services – Jim Murphy; City Treasurer – Dave Martin. The five departments disestablished were – City Engineers & Surveyors, Planning & Environmental Health, Operational Services, City Architects, and Land & Property. The two new departments created were to be called – (1) Design and Technical Services and (2) Environmental Services. The two Chief Officer posts to be advertised externally.

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