Calderdale Council’s Budget Proposals 2015/16 – 2017/18 include swingeing cuts to local services, in order to “balance the budget” in the face of massive and unprecedented cuts by central government to the local government support grant.
Labour has put forward an alternative budget that includes the use of prudential borrowing and Council reserves to invest in income-generating public services, like affordable housing and business support – but it still proposes making major cuts as laid out in the Tory/LibDem Budget.
Both the Labour and the Tory/LibDem budgets include big cuts to Adults Health and Social Care (AHSC) services.
£2.5m is the target for cuts in 2017/18 to be achieved through cutting Council social workers loose from the Council and setting them up as a “mutual” business. Both the LibDem/Tory budget and the Labour budget include this measure.
The Labour budget also proposes to re-tender public health contracts in order to get cheaper public health services.
A disproportionate amount of the overall target of cutting £2.6m worth of discretionary services in 2017/18 will come from cuts to Adults Social Care – but the Labour budget says it would “avoid…the Conservatives plans” to make this cut.
“Demand management” is seen as a key way of cutting costs in Adults Social Care.
The AHSC Director Bev Maybury told the 27 January AHSC Scrutiny Panel that AHSC was going to break even this year, but faced significant pressures in 2015/16.
Cutting £millions by spinning off Calderdale Council adults social care into a “mutual” company
On top of existing spending cuts to AHSC, both the Labour and the Tory/LibDem budgets include a £2.5m cuts target for 2017/18, to be made by taking the Council’s Adult social workers off the Council payroll, setting them up as a “mutual” company and then contracting them to do their work on £2.5m/year less money.
At the 27th January Calderdale Council Adults Health & Social Care Scrutiny Panel, the AHSC Director Ms Maybury said that the Council will give social workers a year to trial the new process and there will then be an evaluation, leading to a transfer of staff into a new “mutual” company. She said she will come back to the SP with the evaluation.
Nationally, Unite and Unison are both strongly opposed to the “mutualisation” of public services. This is privatisation under another name – with all privatisation’s problems of fragmentation, lack of accountability, and the substitution of commercial values and pressures for caring, people-centred values.
Cllr Bob Metcalfe expressed serious concerns about this proposal to cut AHSC spending by £2.5m, through turning the Council’s adult social work team into a “mutual” enterprise.
“I’m seriously concerned about this target on top of existing spending cuts to AHSC.”
Bev Maybury, the Council’s Director of Adults Health & Social Care, told the Scrutiny Panel that this had been done in Shropshire.
With funding from the Cabinet Office’s Mutuals Support Programme, Shropshire Council hired a consultant to set up a Potential Public Service Mutual (PSM).
Once Shropshire Council had approved the business plan, strategy and governance and legal arrangements, the Potential PSM became an actual PSM called People 2 People. This company carries out community care assessments on behalf of Shropshire Council and handles a sizable portion of the Council’s adults social care budget.
The Calderdale Council Cabinet member for Adults Health and Social Care, Cllr Ann McAllister, said that the Shropshire presentation she’d seen on this indicated considerable savings, which is why she was keen to see how it works in Calderdale.
A Unison Report identifies the real objective of setting up public service mutuals as:
“…a massive shrinking of the public sector. Rather than responding to a financial crisis caused by irresponsible risk-taking by an underregulated banking sector, the government has recast the problem as one caused by a profligate state sector that is too big and spends too much of the nation’s wealth.”
The Unison Report continues,
“Spinning out public sector units into mutuals may not draw the level of public opposition that privatisation would (especially in health and education) but it still accepts the logic of the market in public service provision and, in the
longer term, could also result in a major extension of more
Cuts to discretionary services – ie everything that the Council doesn’t have a statutory duty to provide
The Council’s proposed budget for 2015/16 – 2017/18 aims to cut £2.6m from discretionary services in 2017/18.
At the AHSC SCrutiny Panel meeting on 27 January, Cllr Malcolm James asked how much of the £2.6m discretionary services cuts will fall on AHSC in 2017/18.
Ms Maybury replied that the sum is so big it raises the question: what does the Council do now that it won’t be able to do in future?
She said that the AHSC directorate have protected early intervention and protection, using money from the new Better Care Fund (BCF).
In 2015-16, the BCF will transfer around £15m NHS funding from our already skint hospitals Trust, into Calderdale Council’s adults social care and public health budgets.
But although early intervention and protection adults social care services are protected, the AHSC Directorate will have to discuss what other services will have to go.
Ms Maybury said that it won’t be easy and the cuts to discretionary services are slightly greater than a proportional top slice of the Council budget. She said that schemes put forward will deliver those cuts and will be mainly round AHSC. She said there will be mitigations – for example CMBC is getting £230K for help with social care beds to improve hospital discharge.
Cllr Metcalfe complained that Councillors had had no discussion about this, and the figures were put forward with no involvement by Councillors.
Cutting £500k/year by “managing demand”
The Budget proposal says demand management will cut £500k AHSC spending in 2017/18.
At the 27 January AHSC SP, Councillor Burton asked:
“What demand management techniques will be used? Is this a euphemism for not meeting demand?”
The Director of Adults Health & Social Care Ms Maybury said that they were not talking about not meeting demand. But about things like recommissioning home care. She said that “integrated care” & reablement can help people to recover, so it’s possible to cut level 4/ high level services.
Cllr Burton asked,
“How will this be audited to see if outcomes improve through the new demand management system?”
A question which received no answer.
Instead the Council’s Public Health Officer Paul Butcher said,
“We can shift demand through early intervention work and prevention.”
And Ms Maybury asserted,
“The Staying Well in Calderdale project [the loneliness project] will stop people going into care because of their loneliness & associated fear.”
However, it appears that there is so far no evidence that this is the case.