London Councils wants boroughs to control health funds

The government should give councils control of non-acute NHS budgets in an effort to further integrate health and social care, London Councils urged today.

In its Manifesto for Londoners, the representative body for boroughs said the reform would help integrate health with council services including social care and housing, and enable GPs to select packages drawing on all services.

It would also make decisions on health more responsive to local needs through councils’ democratic accountability, and drive efficiency by reducing duplication across agencies.

The call echoes proposals from the Local Government Association issued last week for councils to take responsibility for health and other services.

London Councils said primary care trusts’ non-acute budgets should be made accountable to the London borough in which they operate – suggesting they would need to be signed off by councils – and in the long-term the government should legislate for councils to take over these PCT functions.

Executive member for health and adult services at London Councils’ Colin Barrow said: “Local authorities are best suited to cater for their residents – it is vital that councils are able to tailor provisions to suit the particular needs of their residents, and not those of Whitehall.”

London Councils also urged further devolution in child safeguarding. It said the funding and responsibilities held by the Government Office for London – which represents Whitehall in the capital – should be transferred to the London Safeguarding Children Board, which represents boroughs and other agencies in the capital. It said this would save on back office costs which could then be invested in frontline services.

In a consultative paper last week the LGA called for increased council control of primary health, policing and employment support.

Both statements come in the wake of a report by London Councils assessing the Total Place scheme, which aims to improve efficiency through enhanced public sector collaboration in local areas. The report said savings of up to 15% were possible with further integration of budgets across agencies.

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