Archive for December, 2018

A meeting with MPs

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Philip Atkins and I spent part of Monday in Westminster for one of our regular catch-ups with the County’s MPs.  It’s always an interesting session, and, given the understandable preoccupation with Brexit in Parliament, it was a pleasant surprise that 6 of our 9 MPs attended in person, with the others represented by their constituency workers.  In slightly over an hour, we had a spirited and good-humoured conversation that covered pretty much everything that the County Council does for Staffordshire residents.

Of course, the question that we were all waiting to be answered is the final outcome of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, delayed until this week because of the Brexit debate.  This is frustrating, but we have had some clarity on at least 2 parts of the money question.  We will be getting an additional £8.89M for highway repair, a repeat of this year’s Adult Social Care grant of £3.5M specifically to ease winter pressures next year, and an additional £6.05M for social care more widely – children’s and adults’.  The main area of uncertainty is the awaited result of our Business Rates Retention Pilot, which would be probably the only money to come without any strings attached.  Of course, it’s all “one-year money” which means that we can’t plan beyond April 2020 with any certainty around it, but it is welcome nonetheless.

A lot of work is currently being done to ensure that we get best value for money, but we think that the conditions are reasonable and will allow us to achieve maximum effect.  If there is a downside, it is that there is little prospect of being able to roll back the MTFS measures which we have published, and we will have to implement what will be a difficult plan.  The extra money will undoubtedly make the implementation easier than it might otherwise have been.

In summary, we are fortunate in having the support of our MPs; they have lobbied strongly on our behalf throughout this difficult year.  Of course, they will be challenging and want us to solve issues for Staffordshire residents, just as our elected Members do, but they do understand the pressures under which we are operating.  Leaving Westminster and the atmosphere generated by the Brexit debate, I was very happy to be returning to the relative calm and sanity of Staffordshire.

Sometimes you have to count your blessings.

Health and social care integration, and our Industrial Strategy

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

It was a delight to get out of the office on Tuesday and visit an exemplar of integration in health and care at the Samuel Johnson Hospital in Lichfield.  Claire Wood, the matron, was our host as we listened to NHS employees and adult social care workers operating together in a highly effective manner.  In essence, they had heeded the advice of somebody whom I worked for many years ago, namely sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.  They had just got with working together, without worrying whether they worked for the NHS or the local authority.  Of course, there is no reason why they would have to ask for forgiveness, as they were doing the right things, but sometimes I think we worry about organisational structures too much.  The lesson for me is obvious; we all just need to concentrate on doing the right thing for our residents.

On a completely different track, I spent Thursday morning with members of the Local Enterprise Partnership – business people, academics, politicians and civil servants as well as local government officers –  working out what Staffordshire and Stoke’s Local Industrial Strategy will look like.  This is not merely an academic exercise; after Brexit, the EU funding to the county will stop and will be replaced by our proportion of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  Although the details are yet to be confirmed, it is almost certain that our share will be at least partly dictated by how compelling our strategy is.  It’s therefore worth us taking a lot of interest in it.