Blog 1st June 2018

Jun 1st 2018, 09:30

Blog 1st June 2018

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Health, Social Care, Cumbria County Council, NHS England, Public Finance, the European Union, the New European, Ken Clarke MP, Local Government Chronicle, MHCLG, Lord Gary Porter, Ealing BC, Islington BC, Impact HA, the Riverside Group, Local Authority Housing Finance, seminars and training.

The need to bring health and social care services closer together has long been recognised but progress has always been very slow. I was therefore pleased to hear that health and care services in North Cumbria are to be included in a national pilot scheme to bring the two sectors closer together. This will be based on work that is already being done in Alston where health and care staff work with local communities in ‘co-production’. Partners include Cumbria County Council, NHS England, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group. Councillor Peter Thornton (Liberal-Democrat), Cabinet Member for Health and Care at Cumbria County Council, told the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ that:

“We are all working towards a health and care system which is easy to use and based around keeping people in good health rather than just fixing things when they go wrong.”

The May edition of ‘Public Finance’ identifies the threat that Britain leaving the European Union poses for health and social care services as European Union citizens begin to leave the United Kingdom. 62,000 of the National Health Service workforce in England are from other European Union countries (5.6% of the total) and 95,000 of the social care workforce in England are from other European Union countries (7% of the total). According to the Nursing & Midwifery Council, a survey of people who left the register during 2017 showed that 47% of people from the European Economic Area cited ‘Brexit’ as the reason for leaving. Julia Goldsworthy, Chair of the Brexit Advisory Commission was quoted as saying that:

“Even though we haven’t yet left the European Union, there has already been a negative impact upon the health and social care workforce.”

Education services are even more dependent on workers from other European Union countries who comprise 149,000 (5.9%) of the education workforce and 25,000 (15%) of the university workforce.

This weeks’ ‘New European’ contains an interesting interview with Ken Clarke MP (Conservative) and an interesting article by Mitch Benn. Ken Clarke concludes by saying that:

“My faith ultimately is in our elected representatives. We’ve a situation now where they’re passing legislation that most know only too well is against the national interest. I don’t think the government, or opposition, should make any assumptions that they can three-line-whip their MPs to keep on doing that indefinitely.”

And Mitch Benn concludes by writing that:

“The battle now isn’t left versus right, or east versus west, or even rich versus poor. It’s between facts and fantasy, between reality and faith, between free thinking and wishful thinking. Each political side has adherents of both.”

The ‘Local Government Chronicle’ reports that since 2010 there has been a 5% increase in the number of central government employees and a 26% reduction in the number of local government employees; and that during the last two years there has been a reduction of 9% in the number of local government staff and an 18% increase in the number of staff at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. Nick Golding, the Editor of the ‘Local Government Chronicle writes that:

“Whitehall departments have been given an excuse note allowing them to bunk off austerity.”

Lord Gary Porter (Conservative), the Leader of the Local Government Association and of South Holland District Council is quoted as saying that:

“From the taxpayers’ point of view, local government staff add value to the lives of the people we work for. I would be interested to see if someone would like to say the same thing about central government staff… Worse than double standards… Rolling back the state obviously doesn’t mean that.”

Interesting observations on how the United Kingdom State appears to be becoming increasingly dysfunctional and decreasingly fit for purpose! Also, interesting to see that ‘austerity’ means increased public expenditure in total, largely funded through borrowing, while specific budgets such as those in housing, local government and police are reduced significantly!

Some interesting statistics on social housing in London have been published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government. They show that from 2012 to 2017 the number of council homes reduced from 412,820 to 393,940 (4.6%), a loss of about 4,000 a year mainly due to ‘right to buy’. However, the stock of housing association homes increased from 385,000 to 407,240 (5.8%) – an increase of about 4,000 a year. The number of social homes therefore increased from 797.820 to 801,180 (0.4%). In view of the increasing population of London, increasing household formation and reduced affordability this is bad news as a significant increase in social housing is required but is not being achieved. However, closer examination reveals an even more worrying trend. Between 2016 and 2017, councils lost 3,620 homes but housing associations increased their stock by only 1,910. Consequently, the total stock of social housing reduced. The largest reductions were in Ealing and Islington. This trend can be expected to continue with worrying consequences.

Impact Housing Association is holding its annual general meeting at the George Hotel in Penrith on Monday evening. I will be attending as I am a shareholding member. The George Hotel is probably the most prestigious in Penrith but seems a strange choice of venue as most of Impact’s homes and tenants are in Workington – forty miles away – and the association has its own meeting rooms in Workington and Penrith. Top of the agenda are the proposals to change the rules to enable the takeover by the Riverside Group to take place; alongside which are proposals to reduce the number of tenants on the board and to reduce the number of shareholding members (currently there are thirty). The 2017 accounts – that contain some surprises - are also up for approval and some board members are up for re-election.

The global accounts of housing associations published by Homes England show that most housing associations reduced expenditure on repairs and maintenance in 2016/17. Impact Housing Association reduced its expenditure on routine repairs by 28% (the fourth largest cut in the whole of England). One of the reasons cited by the board in support of the takeover of Impact by Riverside is that homes have not been well maintained. However, the board’s own decisions seem to have created that situation.

Our next seminars will be on ‘Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance’ and will be held in Leeds on 10th July and London on 17th July.

These seminars will look in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England – especially the implications of the policies of the government, the public finances, rent policy, welfare reform including universal credit, issues around the reinvigorated ‘right to buy’, changes to the funding of supported housing including the proposed sheltered housing rent and locally administered budgets for short-term accommodation, the implementation of the homelessness reduction act, the flexible homelessness reduction grant, the affordable housing programme, local housing companies (what they can offer, how to establish them and how to set one up) and new development.

For more information or to make a booking, please click here

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