Counties to keep social services after regional government revamp

    Six county councils in northern England look set to retain all
    social services responsibility in a proposed shake-up of local
    government, writes Craig Kenny.

    The possible creation of two regional assemblies in the north has
    prompted a review of lower tiers of local government in Lancashire,
    Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham, Cheshire and North
    Yorkshire.

    If the public votes for regional assemblies this autumn, county and
    district councils would be replaced by new unitary authorities,
    with options for between one and three per county.

    Evidence to the Boundary Committee for England strongly suggests
    retaining existing county units. The Social Services Inspectorate
    questions the ability of sub-county level authorities to deliver a
    full range of social services in the case of both Lancashire and
    North Yorkshire.

    Some bids for smaller unitary authorities in Lancashire tended to
    ‘underplay’ the implications of the Children Bill, the
    report said.
    However, the committee had concerns about Cumbria
    Council’s ‘weak’ Comprehensive Performance Assessment
    and a recent zero-star rating for its social services
    department.

    The report also raises concerns about the recruitment of specialist
    social services staff if North Yorkshire were split into
    three.
    But the SSI noted that there would be ‘challenging
    issues’ in providing social services for a county the size of
    Durham, despite the department’s two-star rating.

    The county councils are resisting division. North Yorkshire
    CC’s leader Councillor John Weighell said that only a single
    unitary authority option would preserve the county’s
    ‘tremendous social care’.

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