Directors greet new council autonomy

The Association of Directors of Social Services has given a
cautious welcome to the freedoms and flexibilities for local
government announced last week.

All councils are to benefit from greater control over how they
spend their money and will see a 75 per cent reduction in the
number of plans they have to produce for central government.

The best councils will also benefit from the removal of
ring-fencing, a three-year holiday from most inspections, and will
not have to submit plans to the government.

Financial freedoms for high performing councils will affect at
least 14 Department of Health grants, including those for
children’s services and mental health.

For three-star rated social services departments that are not part
of “excellent” councils, this means these grants could be spent on
any area of social services or be carried over to the next
financial year, and will be paid earlier.

“Excellent” councils, meanwhile, would be able to spend the grant
money outside of social services, for example on libraries.
However, rather than expecting social services to lose out,
chairperson of the ADSS standards and performance committee Tony
Hunter suggested that in some circumstances they might actually
benefit from non-social services money coming their way.

Meanwhile, a job advertisement placed by the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister has fuelled rumours that as many as a third of
councils will be rated as weak or poor when the comprehensive
performance assessment results are published next week. The
advertisement for local government performance team leaders
indicates that 56 councils could feature in this category.

An analysis by Nottinghamshire Council of the methodology used to
calculate comprehensive performance assessments suggests that a
number of councils may have been pushed down into lower
classifications as a result of using average social services scores
instead of their star ratings.

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