Pressure on our local authorities is mounting.
Yesterday, behind closed doors, those local authorities with responsibility for Adult Social Care demanded that the Local Government Association make more effort to better represent their interests in the Whitehall and the media. The real scale of the financial pressures counties are grappling with is not well understood and there is a desperate need for a debate on how we fund care for our aging population.
There is also tension emerging between those who have responsibility for Adult Social Care and those who control the planning in two tier systems of local government. The reluctance of planning authorities to embrace a growth agenda is restricting the funding that can filter up to counties to pay for Adult Social care.
Professor Edward Deming, one of the fathers of the total quality movement in the 1950s, wrote about how change only comes out of a crisis. Government has placed far too much pressure in recent years on local authorities. The sector has managed that change better than almost any other part of our public sector, but now the rising costs are placing it under unbelievable financial stress.
With central Government looking for a further 6% of cuts in the next few years, increased funding from Westminster is highly unlikely. In addition, we are now only months away from the Revenue Support Grants being abolished. The lost grant and the gap between income and expenditure is now looming like the iceberg that hit the titanic.
Local government has several choices:
- Adopt a growth strategy and through their local plans increase income from new home owners and business users.
- Increase council tax each year for the foreseeable future.
- Close down all non statutory services and pare back costs to the lowest legally allowed.
Failure to do any will cause a complete melt down of some of our biggest local authorities. Some of all three would be the preferred option for many, keen not to be seen to rock the boat in any one extreme direction.
The next big reorganisational change could come from many counties seeking to become unitary authorities so they can eliminate the Districts and Boroughs that are seen as barriers to income generation. The new unitaries would once again protect the most vulnerable in our society by growing the local economy to support their costs.
Dramatic change is inevitable, the crisis in funding for Adult Social Care will help facilitate it.