Using sheep to cut grass on council land has been condemned as a ‘wacky’ suggestion (Reuters)
Using sheep to cut grass on council land has been condemned as a ‘wacky’ suggestion (Reuters)

Using sheep instead of lawnmowers to cut grass on council land and sending children in care to boarding school are among a raft of money-saving suggestions made by a pressure group to help local authorities cut costs.

Harry Phibbs, a councillor with Hammersmith and Fulham, has complied a list of ideas for councils to save money and avoid putting up council tax. He produced the document for the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Among the suggestions in his 201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government are using cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on mechanised grass cutting, charging staff members to use the council office car park and setting word limits on council documents.

He also suggested closing public lavatories and paying pubs to allow members of the public to use their facilities, sending children in care to boarding school "where possible" and providing fewer Criminal Record Bureau checks on potential employees who are not expected to have any dealings with children.

Other suggestions include providing sprinklers in care homes to reduce the risk of fire to cut down night staff numbers, rewarding council tenants who do their own repairs, and replacing mineral water with tap water for all council meetings - a move Phibbs claims has saved Hammersmith and Fulham £36,000 a year.

He would also like to see an end to art subsidies, the scrapping of garden waste collections, sharing more services with other councils and public bodies and dumping political advisers.

"Some [suggestions] could be shrugged off as mere common sense - missing the point that common sense is a rare and precious commodity in local government," said Phibbs.

But the list, said critics, suggested that councils should "return to the Middle Ages".

Unite local government officer Fiona Farmer said: "The credibility of the TaxPayers' Alliance has to be seriously questioned when ideas taken from medieval times, such as grazing sheep, are wheeled out in its endless quest for publicity.

"Has the alliance worked out how much it is going to cost to buy these animals and pay the substantial veterinary bills?

"The prospect we face is hundreds of these animals freely roaming around municipal parks ignoring health and safety considerations when children are playing - and being a prime target for urban rustlers."

Ridiculous and dangerous ideas

A Local Government Association spokesperson added: "The TPA seems to have lost its bearings. This is a list of things councils have been doing for years peppered with a number of frankly ridiculous ideas, some of which are downright dangerous."

Local government secretary Eric Pickles said the report revealed that there was still massive waste in the public sector.

"There is significant scope for town halls to save taxpayers' money, helping keep council tax down and protect frontline services" said Pickles.

"Councils which complain about so-called cuts need to read through this report and justify their spending to local taxpayers. Central government could learn many a practical tip from this too."

Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Far too often we hear unimaginative councillors insisting that they have no choice but to raise council tax and increase the burden on already hard-pressed families.

"But there are hundreds of ways in which local authorities can save money before even thinking about increasing the council tax."

Click here for the full list.