Tag Archives: councils

Alastair Darling to make budget cuts public

For months now, talks of budget cuts have been rife among council departments, especially social care. Many councils are already tightening their belts in anticipation of big cuts in 2011, when the next comprehensive spending review is scheduled for.

However, all the talk has thus far been based on guesswork. At the National Commissioning Conference in June, there was talk of public sector cuts of up to 10%, which was met with sage nods rather than gasps of shock, but it was emphasised that this was only a guess.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Fiscal Studies says that total departmental spending will have to fall by 3.2 % a year for 3 years if the government’s target of halving the budget deficit within 4 years is to be met.

The only certainties given by the government so far are that police, education and health budgets will be protected. There is no such guarantee for social care, and the lack of new money made available – thus far – to help drive the recommendations in the recent Social Care Task Force report seem to indicate the prevailing wind.

However, the guesswork is set to end, according to the Guardian. It carries a report saying that Chancellor Alastair Darling has committed to publish more internal estimates about range of departmental spending cuts the Treasury expects to make in the next 3-4 years after a grilling from the Treasury select committee yesterday. This may extend to being more open with the public about spending assumptions for the years post 2010-11 as well.

Anything that gives people – inside local councils and outside – a clearer picture of what is, or will be, happening is to be welcomed. People are more accepting of cuts when they are given the facts of why it is happening, rather than just being told that it is.

Everyone knows that cuts are coming, but knowing how much will be an advantage. It can inform public debate and ensure councils have a better idea of just how swingeing the cuts will be.

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Councils gear up for hard times

After a summer of dire warnings of public sector cutbacks, yet another article is out in today’s Daily Telegraph. But what makes this one stand out is the figure it uses – £100 billion.

While we are back in the world of mind-boggling figures – oft seen in this recession – everyone can appreciate that this means that cuts will have to be made quickly and deeply to all areas of service.

The government has previously stated that frontline services won’t be affected, but if the figures quoted are true, it is impossible to see how they won’t be – with the inevitable effect on quality that comes with it.

It is already affecting social care services – children’s homes, adult day centres and the like are closing across the country, the article says – and this will heap yet more pressure on already over-stretched services.

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Councils need to engage users over personal budgets

While scanning the newspapers yesterday, this report in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/28/personal-care-budgets-jamie-bartlett caught my eye. It says that 80% of service users still don’t understand what personal budgets and personalisation is.

The article shows that many councils have really got their work to cut out to get the message out to the community and engage with them about what personalisation means for them – and the problems that could lie ahead for them in implementing it.

Those that have embraced personalisation and driven the implementation of personal budgets will be well placed, but those that have dragged their heels – for whatever reason – could be in serious trouble and will need to look at their policies quickly if disaster is to be avoided.

The personalisation agenda is here to stay – whatever the result of the next general election – so councils really have to get out there and talk to the community, whether it is through their website, service user events, advertising or whatever. Otherwise they could find themselves overwhelmed with demands from confused service users who are suffering because they weren’t well enough informed about what a personal budget was and now don’t have the right care.

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