Maywood, California: The Independent reports that this small bluecollar town has outsourced all of its services to other councils and private contractors. Everything: policing, bin collection, school crossing. Everyone got the sack and new teams came in from various parts. The City Treasurer said “You have single-handedly destroyed this city” before getting the tin-tack but a month later the view has changed. The gangs have moved on, the parks and leisure centre are still open and doing well. The insurers of the old police service had refused to pay out on public liability claims because of the amount of compensation claims relating to police misconduct. Quite some change.

Clearing out the Civic Offices would be extreme and unneccessary but there is always scope for Councils to concentrate on what they do best and leave other activities to those who can do things better. We already have plenty of other companies and organisations running services for us in Sutton, from bin collection to another council running our communication department. We need to do more of this, market-testing the contracts on a regular basis.

However, should the Council be teaching children how not to take drugs at the Sutton Life Centre? Should the Council have a paternalistic view on Youth Services rather than allowing organisations with great track records across London the freedom to offer something more relevant to young people? Should the Council be paying people to tell us how to ‘live on one planet’. The Council has a key role as a facilitator but it doesn’t need to remain after making the introductions, becoming an obstacle for people to cross to get things done. Councils like Sutton need to know when to simplify and when to let go entirely. There’s plenty of scope here before we do a Maywood.