Authorities regain care trust foothold

Local authorities will have powers to select members to
represent their interests on the proposed care trusts, the
government has confirmed.

In what the Local Government Association described as a
“significant breakthrough”, health secretary John Hutton gave
written assurances last week that the responsibility for nominating
elected members to trust boards would lie with councils, not the
new Independent Appointments Commission.

The appointments commission will, however, retain responsibility
for screening those selected before they are appointed to ensure
they meet the requirements for serving on public bodies as set out
by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

The assurances apply to trusts set up voluntarily and it is
unclear whether they will extend to care trusts imposed by the
health secretary where local partnerships are deemed to be

The breakthrough came as a result of an emergency meeting
between Hutton and LGA leaders after a demand was issued by the LGA
and other voluntary and public sector partners for the removal of
care trust proposals from the Health and Social Care Bill.

They were disappointed that the bill, which is set to reach the
statute book before the anticipated June election, establishes care
trusts as NHS bodies rather than “new, truly joint

They were also worried that the involvement of the appointments
commission, which was established on 1 April 2001 and is
responsible for appointing chairpersons and non-executives to the
boards of NHS bodies, would interfere with the local democratic

“The LGA has sought assurances from the minister for health that
councils will be equal partners in the proposed care trusts,” LGA
chairperson Sir Jeremy Beecham said. “The LGA is delighted that the
minister has responded positively to our concerns that local
authorities can nominate members for care trusts.”

Hutton agreed in his letter to Beecham that it would be
“sensible and pragmatic” to appoint councillors to serve as care
trust board members for their term of office. He promised to
continue to explore the issue of accountability of local
authority-nominated members to their authority in more detail.

The LGA is concerned that locally elected representatives must
be accountable to both service users and tax payers for decisions
about services for which they are legally responsible.

The Health and Social Care Bill was delayed at the report stage
of the House of Lords last week in order to rush through emergency
legislation to postpone the local elections. The report stage will
now be later this month, after which the bill will return to the
House of Commons for ratification.

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