The government is yet again interfering in the role and duties of local authorities, argues Peter Gilroy

New guidance on the role of the director of adult social services is far too prescriptive.

The best practice guidance tells us that the Department of Health intends to “introduce legislationto require all local authorities in England to appoint an executive member with responsibility for the local authority’s functions in respect of adults.” Had it said “adult social care services”, it would be clear, specific and sensible.

Had it promised legislation on something substantive and in line with the department’s own plans for simplification, one could foresee real benefits. But this is another missed opportunity to consolidate 50-plus years of incremental, and increasingly disjointed, social welfare legislation.

It is the job of government to satisfy itself that local authorities are held fully accountable for the delivery of services in line with legislation. But it is not the government’s job to prescribe councils’ precise political accountability and governance arrangements.

If a council decides that responsibility for transport is to be vested in the cabinet member for environment, highways and waste and responsibility for leisure in the cabinet member for community services, these are matters for our councillors and residents. They are not matters for the secretary of state for health.

The health secretary has every right to satisfy herself that no one who relies on us for social care is disadvantaged in terms of their leisure and transport needs. But that’s a different issue. I fully expect, along with our council leader, all our chief officers to play an active role in such corporate coherence.

Finally, the rationale for broadening out the statutory responsibilities of the executive member for adults, for the sake of a more joined-up approach, doesn’t hold water. If it were as simple as passing a law, then surely this utopian state of public affairs would have been reached a long time ago – including across government spending departments dare I say.

Peter Gilroy is chief executive of Kent Council

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.