Local authorities demand care trust assurances in parliament

The Local Government Association gave its backing to the health
and social care bill as it reached the report stage at the House of
Lords, on the condition that assurances given in private are
repeated in parliament, writes Lauren Revans.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chairperson of the LGA, admitted that the
association would have preferred to have seen a new model for care
trusts as freestanding not NHS bodies, but said they were
“reasonably content” with the “much improved” amended model.

Sir Jeremy, who is also leader of the LGA’s Labour group, said
that assurances had been given that the trusts would be voluntary,
that local authorities could withdraw if they were unhappy, that
trusts could only be imposed where there was a “real failure” of
service provision, and that elected members would be nominated by
councils not the new NHS Appointments Commission.

However, a spokesperson for the LGA’s Conservative group said
concerns remained over the appointments commission retaining the
right to carry out probity checks on elected members put forward by
local authorities to serve on trust boards.

“We are not opposed to care trusts in principle,” he said. “But
the details are far from as clear as ministers and the LGA
corporate would have us believe.”

He said the Conservative group were unwilling to accept that a
quango would have a role in vetting members who had already been
checked before taking up their local authority post. “This will
increase the scope for political interference,” he warned.

A spokesperson for the LGA’s Liberal Democrat group said their
members “remained to be convinced” that the issues surrounding the
introduction of care trusts had been resolved and were disappointed
the association had “backed down” in negotiations earlier this

“We are not happy that the concessions that have been wrung from
John Hutton are just in a letter to Jeremy Beecham,” she said. “We
are happy that local authorities will be able to appoint their own
representatives and it won’t be down to ministers to decide, but on
the more important issues of accountability and equal partnership
all we have is an assurance that they will continue

She said that the group had approached peers with their concerns
about care trusts and asked them to table amendments to ensure that
“either local authorities will be equal partners in care trusts or
that care trusts will be removed totally from the bill”.

Amendments tabled for discussion in the Lords included the
removal of clauses 53 and 54 of the bill which relate to the
establishment of both voluntary and imposed care trust partnership

However, John Ransford, head of social affairs, health and
housing at the LGA, denied there was any need for clauses to be
deleted “so long as the reassurances are there”.

He said the majority view of the LGA at last week’s executive
meeting was that the concept of care trusts should not be opposed.
“We should be engaging constructively rather than taking
adversarial action,” he said.



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