Proposed larger councils would take the local from local government | Colin Copus | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian

In 2014, when then-chancellor George Osborne promised the 10 councils in Greater Manchester powers over transport, housing, planning and policing, as well as a directly elected mayor, his move was described as “a massive devolutionary moment”.

Who would have predicted that the launch of the devolution adventure would so quickly degenerate into a sterile debate about unitary reorganisation and whether councils should get bigger?

The publication of the independent report on Northamptonshire county council and a raft of reorganisation proposals submitted by councils to Sajid Javid, the housing, communities and local government secretary, indicate that the apparent default solution to the troubles local government is going through, especially financial, is to reorganise councils and to make them bigger.

These are dangerous obsessions based on the idea that fewer councils and councillors would save money and that larger councils would lead to more efficient, more effective and cheaper local government. But there is about 40 years of academic research to indicate that increasing a council’s size is no guarantee of improvements in performance, cost or efficiency. The research also consistently shows that making a council bigger has a negative effect on local democracy.

In the case of Northamptonshire, the most worrying aspect of the report by independent inspector Max Caller is the assumption that reorganising the county into two unitary councils – rather than the existing structure of a county council, plus borough councils and district councils – would solve the problem. There is little evidence to justify single councils representing some 300,000-400,000 people.


Source: Proposed larger councils would take the local from local government | Colin Copus | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian

Hospitals show ‘shocking’ lack of care discharging vulnerable patients

Original post from The Guardian


Healthwatch England report cites examples of stroke victim released with family unaware and suicidal man sent home against his wishes who later killed himself

Healthwatch says it has heard thousands of shocking stories concerning the discharge of patients. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Healthwatch says it has heard thousands of shocking stories concerning the discharge of patients. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

“Shocking” lack of care for vulnerable people discharged unsafely from hospital has been condemned by the state-funded “consumer champion” Healthwatch England.

Common basic failings identified in its report included hospitals not routinely asking patients if they have a home or safe place to be discharged to, details of new medications not being passed on to GPs and carers, and the failure to notify families when relatives were discharged.

The report – Safely Home: what happens when people leave hospital and care settings? – covered the experience of more than 3,000 patients, either older, homeless or with mental health problems. These included the story of a man being discharged from care after a suicide attempt despite his pleas to stay, who killed himself a week later.

Other examples involved an 81-year-old man who had suffered a third severe stroke being discharged from hospital via taxi at 10.30pm without his family being notified, and a young mother being kept in hospital, away from her daughter, because health and social services could not agree on the funding of her care.

Healthwatch’s concerns were first revealed by the Guardian in January. Anna Bradley, the organisation’s chair, said on Monday that it had heard thousands of shocking stories about what happened when people left had hospital without the right planning and support.

“There is a huge human and financial cost of getting discharge wrong. We hope that the increased focus on integration of health and social care, and pressure on finances, will create a new impetus to fix it.”

Bradley added: “Whether it is about properly helping new mums at risk with depression, or making sure the patients receiving end-of-life care are given the support they need to spend their final days at home with their loved ones rather than in hospital, everyone should experience a safe, dignified and well-planned transfer of care.”

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Sadly, this will not come as a surprise to nursing staff, who all too often discharge a healthy patient only to see them return to hospital with complications caused by a lack of community care and support.”

Carter, blaming “systemic problems caused by increasingly fragmented services”, added: “With the right support in the community and properly resourced staff, who can be responsible for coordinating discharge, patients are less likely to return to hospital, relieving the pressures on the frontline”.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Care for the most vulnerable people is improving, including coordinating care for at-risk patients discharged from hospital. We have published a guide to help spread best practice and our £5.3bn Better Care Fund is getting local councils and NHS services working together more effectively to make sure people are properly supported when they leave hospital.

“But this report shows that we need to do more and we’re working with Healthwatch England, the NHS and others to improve further.”

The Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, said: “When patients are discharged unsafely from hospital it can have a devastating impact on them and their families.

“Our own casework shows that we still see too many complaints about failures in the discharge process. This report … adds further weight to our own view that there is still a way to go for the NHS and social care services to plug the gaps in their services to help achieve integrated, joined-up care for patients.”

NHS England said: “It’s important that patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity and are treated with dignity and compassion. However, we also need to ensure appropriate care is put in place before a patient leaves hospital, which needs strong joint working across the health service. While this can cause delays, it’s clearly better for patients and prevents a revolving door scenario that places greater pressure on the NHS.”  ………………’


Councils have money in reserves

Local council spending

Although Local Councils believe they are run like business, in that each department has a budget, this is as far as it goes.  For as long as I can remember, councils have been unable to plan for the long term.  Just look at what some do, patch roads instead of resurfacing. This is a short term measure, as a patch will not last as long as a complete resurface, but is of course cheaper on costs in the short term. In Social Housing many councils will only do emergency repairs as and when required, when a full repair of required areas would be more cost effective over the longer term, but each individual emergency repair is cheaper. But how many emergency repairs are required over the long term and then totally are most expensive than the full repair.

Also in Sheffield there are a number of council run attractions, such as health centres, libraries, etc. Most people attending these attractions spend a good part of the day there, but do the council have any outlets for refreshments, in that they have to some extent a captive cliental. Just look at privately run outlets from DIY centres, garden nurseries and garden centres to large departmental stores and shopping centres, all have at least one refreshment outlet.

But to add to council expenses previous governments have increased staffing costs.

Local councillors were not paid expenses until 1970, by Edward Heath. But they did not gain access to Local Government Pensions until 2003, a luxury made possible by Tony Blair.  This is a perk which the current government are looking to stop.

Re paying expenses, surely this was good, as it enabled all eligible UK citizens to stand, not only the rich. To then offer pensions as well was totally overboard, but that is in keeping with Labour policies.

As to keeping reserves, where possible this should be encouraged, as it provides a safety net for lean times.  Are these lean times and should therefore some of the reserves be brought into the current spending calculation. If so, then only the part of the reserves not already earmarked for other projects could be used.

But remember when reserves have been exhausted, there are no more, should times become even leaner.

Council wishes to evict 2 brothers from council house

Can the council evict?

This is not an easy situation and rests in English Law. The tenant was Jack who paid rent to live in the council house, he did not own it, irrespective of how much rent he paid.  He in fact was sub-letting to Brian and David, which could be in breach of his tenancy agreement.  But if the council knew of the arrangement and let it ride for 58 years, then it is unlikely they could use this to evict.  Since the death of Jack, who has been paying the rent, if it be either Brian or David, have the council accepted the rent as consideration. If so have they unwittingly created a new tenancy agreement by accepting the consideration.

This can only be sorted out by obtaining legal advice and if they do not wish to instruct solicitors, I suggest they go  to their local Citizens Advice Bureau.  Just because a council is involved it can not be assumed they fully know the law.