Independence...Integrity...Value

December 2016

Dec 8th 2016, 09:18

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22nd December 2016

This will be my final blog of 2016 so I would like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you also for taking the time to read my Blog throughout 2016 and I hope that you will continue to do so in 2017.

Monday was the closing day for the public consultation on the future of the future of Health Care in West, North and East Cumbria. There are many such consultations being held by the National Health Service at present. The principal issues facing the National Health Service are the same in all parts of Britain, although there are always specific local issues also. In Cumbria, it is proposed to make several changes including the closure of some community hospitals and reductions in the number of beds; the removal of consultant-led maternity care from the West Cumberland Hospital and a focus on 'Integrated Care Communities'.

I think there is increasing reason to be concerned about the National Health Service and its capacity to deliver the services that are required moving forward. In my view, there is a need to consider significant changes to funding, management and partnership working if the National Health Service is to continue to be fit for purpose.

As I live in Cumbria I responded to the consultation in a personal capacity. My conclusion is that the proposals contained in the consultation paper do not appear to have been fully thought through, especially because:

  • They are being put forward before the National Health Service locally has identified how to meet its existing budget deficit or projected future costs.
  • They are being put forward before the National Health Service has addressed important issues such as its approach to management, 'failure demand', the role of the private sector and the shortage of staff.
  • There is a lack of a 'joined-up' approach between the National Health Service and the Local Authorities; and no mention of a 'joined-up' approach with the Housing Associations.
  • It is not clear that the Adult Social Care service will be able to provide the services that the National Health Service envisages it will.
  • The effect on local communities may be adverse.

A copy of my response can be downloaded from HERE

The Local Government Finance Settlement for England for 2017/18 was issued last week. No new money from central government was included in the settlement. However, the Government will allow the social care precept to rise by an additional 1% in 2017/18 and 2018/19 (from 2% to 3%), on condition that the total increase to 2019/20 does not exceed 6%. However, as the total allowable precept increase over the remaining years of the Spending Review remains the same, this flexibility does not provide any additional resources in the long-term and does not address the £2.6billion funding gap facing social care by the end of the decade. The Local Government Association commented that:

"Social care should be treated as a national priority. There needs to be an urgent and fundamental review of social care and health before next year's spring Budget. Local government leaders must be part of that review. This is imperative to get a long-term, sustainable solution to the social care crisis that the most vulnerable people in our society deserve."

The Scottish Government has been pleased with its performance on social housing during 2016. The 'Right to Buy' came to an end in July. Also, between 2011/12 and 2015/16, 33,490 affordable homes were built in Scotland including 22,523 for social rent - meaning that the Scottish Government's target for affordable house building had been exceeded by more than 10%.

The New Year will see the introduction of new performance standards by the Welsh Housing Regulator. These will include standards on financial viability, governance and tenant services; and are part of the Welsh Government's programme for the de-regulation of Welsh housing associations that is designed to prevent them from being classified as public sector bodies in the way that English housing associations have been.

I expect that 2017 will be another year of significant challenges for public services including housing, local government and health. AWICS will continue to offer information and management consultancy and training that is designed to assist clients to manage those challenges. I will look forward to working with you again in 2017.

13th December 2016

I am writing this blog while on the train to London where I have a meeting this afternoon with a housing association that I am assisting with the calculation of service charges. I am finding that a significant number of my housing association and local authority clients are asking for assistance with calculating or de-pooling service charges or with training. Further information on services that I can offer in connection with service charges can be found HERE

The 2017 series of seminars on 'All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing' will start in February. There will be sessions in London and Leeds. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

I recently presented an in-house session of 'All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance' to officers of a local authority in Kent. I am very grateful for the positive feedback that I received. Delegates said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of the presentation was excellent and the training met their needs fully. They described the day as interesting, valuable, comprehensive, clear, thorough and useful. The 2017 series of seminars on 'All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance' will start in March. There will be sessions in London and Leeds. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

We have just published our briefing paper on the Autumn Statement that was made on 23rd November 2016. This was the first 'budget' after the referendum on the European Union that was held on 23rd June 2016. The purpose of this briefing paper is to summarise the statement with particular reference to its implications for housing and local government. It includes sections on:

  • The Economy
  • Independent Forecasts
  • Infrastructure
  • Affordable Housing - England
  • Affordable Housing - London
  • Housing Conclusions
  • Local Government
  • Adult Social Care
  • Highways
  • Example: Cumbria County Council
  • Devolution
  • Welfare and Universal Credit
  • Devolved Administrations
Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

The problems of the Adult Social Care service are well documented. They include demographic change; a lack of funding; and a lack of joined-up thinking and working between Adult Social Care, Health and Housing services. In my work as an Associate with the Local Government Association I often encounter local authorities that are having to reduce Adult Social Care budgets despite increasing need because of budget pressures; and authorities that struggle to achieve planned savings or to operate within approved budgets.

Recent reports, though, have identified that the private sector is also at risk. A recent analysis of the accounts of 6,158 private care home providers that between them provide 96% of the care homes in the United Kingdom found that 28% of them had potential problems with financial viability while 12% of them had liabilities that exceeded their assets.

Unfortunately, while these problems are widely recognised the government does not appear to be addressing them with the urgency that is required.

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