Government urged to invest to avoid `inevitable disaster`

The Local Government Association called on the government to
urgently invest extra funds in social services to avert “inevitable
disaster”, writes Lauren Revans.

Proposing the keynote motion of the LGA’s general assembly
annual meeting, Buckinghamshire Council leader David Shakespeare
urged central government to “do to personal social services what it
has been doing to education and invest in it”.

The carried motion committed the LGA to pressing central
government for an “improvement to the funding levels for vulnerable
people including children being cared for by hard-pressed social
services departments throughout the country”.

It also welcomed the opportunity to work with the Association of
Directors of Social Services and others to develop a positive
dialogue with ministers and the department of health in seeking
“creative solutions to underpin the case for additional

Shakespeare said local authorities were already spending £1
billion over and above the amount allocated to social services by
government through its standard spending assessment.

“We are only able to deliver a part of the service we would want
to and even that part is being funded by well above inflation
council taxes and cut backs on other important local services,” he

Shakespeare warned that genuine demands for services were now
“dangerously outstripping supply”, and that the pressures would
only continue to rise with an increasing elderly population to care
for, widespread staff recruitment and retention problems, and
increasing litigation.

The Best Value Inspectorate and system were also high on the LGA
Assembly’s agenda. LGA chairperson Sir Jeremy Beecham said the
system was “still too bureaucratic and burdensome for smaller
district councils” and needed to be streamlined.

The assembly passed a motion for the LGA to press the government
to instigate an immediate review of the Best Value

This should be carried out with a view to either merging the
inspectorate with the district audit service, or restricting the
inspectorate’s remit to avoid duplication and reduce costs, the
motion stated.

In particular, the LGA wants the government and the Audit
Commission to accept that a one-size-fits-all approach to review
and inspection is inappropriate, and that resources dedicated to
the process should be proportional to the scale of services
involved and the risks associated with them.

A consultation paper outlining LGA proposals for streamlining
best value and the associated audit and inspection regimes has been
sent to local government minister Nick Raynsford as a provisional
statement of the LGA’s position, and discussions with officials are
due to start shortly.

* ‘Streamlining Best Value’ is available from Comments on the
proposals and additional suggestions for reform should be sent to by 31 July.





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