Sefton Council – Its Social Care budgetary crisis (as with every other council delivering social care responsibilities)

Sefton Council Logo

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/social-care-in-crisis-sefton-15213903

I like Margaret Carney, she became Chief Executive during my time as Leader of Sefton Council. She is a calm and clear thinking council officer in my view so if she says there’s a crisis then you can take it that there is. Of course she is also saying what many other Chief Executives of Councils are saying across the Country and there’s much evidence to back up their concerns.

But as I’ve said before (in previous blog postings on this subject) the crisis in social care has been building for many a year. It would be a mistake to think it’s just another victim of austerity. Yes austerity has made things worse but well before the financial crash social care was hoovering up huge amounts of Sefton Council’s revenue budget often at the expense of other council services. Every yearly budget setting round there would be a need to put greater and greater sums into elderly and children’s social care to keep them afloat – rising demands and every spiraling costs. But as I say Sefton Borough is far from being unique in having to deal with this.

This is a crisis that needed to be faced up to by politicians in government 20 or more years ago, the fact that it still has not been is testament to our broken political system which only thinks very short term indeed.

Whilst we spend Billions of Pounds trying to exit the EU there are real life problems like this that keep getting swept under so many politicians carpets. Our priorities as a Country are utterly bizarre. The poor the sick and vulnerable are paying for the stupidity of our leaders with underfunded social care amongst other vital services, such as the NHS, from which we are diverting funds to fight fantasy projects like Brexit.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Has Brexit become more important than caring for the elderly?

Sadly it seems so, whilst the building and ever deepening crisis in our social care system gets worse every day. The Guardian has an opinion piece on its web site by Polly Toynbee on this matter, please have a read of it via the link below:-

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/17/brexit-crisis-social-care-workers-night-shift-pay-claim-quitting

To true Brexiters such as the majority of the Tory Party and the Labour Leadership it’s probably the case that they put leaving the EU before just about everything; it’s their cult-like religious goal and nothing can be allowed to get in the way. Of course in reality, not something Brexiter MP’s are often well acquainted with I guess, the big issues that Parliament need to concentrate on are still there festering away. And probably social care is at the top of the list of ignored crisis issues along with the related problems of our struggling NHS.

Yes I know, I’m a Remainer so I really don’t in any way understand why adult social care and the NHS crisis is less important than leaving the EU but I guess this is very clear to Brexiters?…

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Social Care for the elderly – A disaster that is worsening every day

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/social-care-crisis-latest-governmet-delays-slow-dragging-feet-labour-damian-green-a8058776.html

The Independent has the story on its web site – see link above

Norman Lamb MP

Quote from the article:-

Liberal Democrat former care minister Norman Lamb said: “This Government is completely failing to address the social care crisis which has left over a million vulnerable older people without the support they need.

“It is outrageous that they are now kicking the can further down the road, leaving the social care sector in a state of uncertainty.”

This vital issue affects every section of society as we will all potentially need social care when we are elderly. That means this is an obvious cross-party issue that should be addressed by the coming together of political foes for the benefit of the common good; something Norman Lamb has tried to bring about previously. Sadly, our ridiculously partisan political system leads to politicians opposing each other even when they agree but every day that this social care crisis is kicked down the road more of the elderly in our families will suffer from inadequate care.

Yet we still like to call ourselves civilised……..

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Blood on our streets? Well some senior Tories seem to think it quite possible

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/19/why-some-tories-fear-blood-on-the-streets

The Guardian has the story on its web site – see link above

Well this is a sobering article indeed but frankly it’s not so far away from what I have been thinking.

No Government can survive for ever a sustained attack on the living standards of its people and that’s what the Tories are creating and indeed deepening.

Brexit, especially a Hard Brexit would be a hugely challenging agenda if we were at the top of a the economic cycle, with low debt (personal and public/national), good public services and wages at a decent level. Trouble is we have have none of these advantages so Brexit, with its huge costs to the public purse and our personal finances, should not even be being contemplated by all but the seriously deluded for a very long time indeed – or never in my book.

Why you can see Downing Street saying ‘we must deliver Brexit come what may; its the will of the people’. Well no its not actually as those that voted for it, or at least the vast majority of them, had no idea what damage it would cause to the UK and their own livelihoods.

The bottom line is that even if we ignore the huge black hole of Brexit we are in a horrible economic place with little chance of an improvement without a good following wind. The economic collapse of 2007 exposed very serious fault lines in the UK yet years of austerity have not really scratched the surface.

To me the obvious reaction a to all this is scrap Brexit, scrap renewal of Trident, accept that taxes have to rise particularly for high earners and hope for an economic miracle. If all that happens then we may just about get our noses above the water line.

And we thought that Greece and Ireland were in deep economic trouble!

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Austerity as we think of it post the financial crash is far from being the whole story of the decline in council services

There is no doubt that austerity as either implemented by the Coalition Government (and then sadly pushed far, far harder by the present Tory Government) or indeed as outlined by Alistair Darling (his austerity would probably have been harsher than the Coalition’s some commentators say) on behalf of the Labour Party prior to the 2010 General election has had a huge impact on the ability of councils to deliver services.

But in fact there is a funding crisis that goes back much further than the financial crash of 2007 that has impacted on local authorities. That funding crisis is back in the headlines now but I recall it rearing its head almost every year that I was Sefton Borough Councillor during the budget setting process. In fact it was twofold i.e. children in care and care for the elderly.

Year on year senior council officers would present the need for extra money to be put into these two care budgets, often the amounts asked for, year in year out, would be have six 000,000’s behind them.

My point is that the elderly and children in care budgets have been eating further and further into council budgets for many, many years so austerity as far as local authorities are concerned did not start with the great financial crash but maybe 10 to 15 years prior to that.

And what made me think of this matter which must have been impacting on every local authority with responsibility for elderly/child care? Well two things really. The elderly care crisis is hitting the headlines yet again because politicians refuse to address it properly and have failed to do so for a least the last 20 years. And the other very local issue that made me think about it is the demise of public toilets and in particular the former award winning ones in Maghull.

Maghull's closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Maghull’s closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Public toilets have been in decline for a long time and the Maghull ones are an interesting and sad example not least because Sefton Council would once boast about them being award winners (Public Loo of the Year or some such award) back in the 1980’s. But since those days the Council’s focus, you could say its priority, has been slowly but surely moved towards funding the elderly and children in care.

What’s happened has been a creeping process whereby the amount of money each local authority has to spend on other services has got smaller and smaller as the budgets for elderly and children in care have got bigger. And this well before the consequences of austerity and the financial crash hit them via government grant cuts.

The thrust of government policy has in effect been to force local authorities to spend their money in these two key social care areas and on little else. Yes there’s no doubt that the austerity that followed the financial crash sped up this process beyond what anyone could have conceived but it had been a trend for a long time, one which was pursued by governments of all colours.

In reality local authorities (this does not include Town and Parish Councils – they don’t get an government grants) are now focused on delivering statutory services and have almost no money to deliver things that local people may want. Public toilets, for example, are a non-statutory service hence their demise across the UK.

Personally, I have thought that the funding of local authorities has been inappropriate for many years because they are in reality delivering two very different things i.e. local often non-statutory services for their communities and statutory services where they are in effect simply an agent delivering governmental/national services. The two got muddled up in the times of plenty and it did not seem to matter. However, in times of scarce money it is the local mainly non-statutory services that have been lost as the money has gone to prop up the statutory ones.

The former Aintree Library - closed by Sefton Council.

The former Aintree Library – closed by Sefton Council.

Sadly, it is more complex than that even because if you take the example of libraries they are a statutory service i.e. local authorities have to provide them. But the level to which they are provided is a different matter so Sefton Council was able to reduce it’s libraries from 13 to 6 without falling foul of the law not so long ago.

However you look at it local authorities are the fall-guys for austerity because governments of all colours over the past 20+ years have not funded statutory services, particularly adult/elderly social care, properly.

Conservative Council looks to 15% hike in Council tax

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-38678629

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

Now this is an interesting story and it shows how deep the cuts in local government funding have gone. Whether Surrey County Council’s Tory rulers will follow through with this significant rise remains to be seen though.

Locally the elected Labour Mayor of Liverpool was talking about a big hike in Council tax a few weeks ago only to back off when the unpopularity of it became apparent.

BUT it is clear to all of us that social care for the elderly across England is slowly but surely falling apart due to funding cuts. So one way or another we are going to have to pay more whether that be in national or local taxes. If this crisis, which mirrors the similar crisis in the NHS, is not tackled and soon we will no long be able to call ourselves a civilised country. Deliberately under funding care for the elderly is appalling.

With thanks to Roy Connell for spotting the BBC story.