Posts Tagged ‘government’

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.

Meeting with Staffordshire MPs, and continuing the success of Building Resilient Families and Communities

Monday, February 5th, 2018

We had our quarterly meeting with Staffordshire’s MPs this week in Portcullis House in Westminster. This is our opportunity to tell them what we’re doing, and for them to tell us what is happening in the heart of Government. It is always an interesting session, with Philip Atkins, Alan White and me making up the Staffordshire County Council Team.  On this occasion, five of our 9 MPs attended in person, with the rest represented by their staff.

Not perhaps surprisingly, the conversation  turned to our Financial Strategy and the decision to raise council tax by 5.95%. Although nobody likes to raise taxes, as it’s never popular, there was universal agreement that it was the right thing to do in order to provide the services that we deliver for the most vulnerable in our society.  There remains some debate in Parliament on whether the Autumn Statement will be amended, and we will be watching it with interest to see if there is any more money for children’s services or adult social care.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, we’ve reached the logical end of our current method of meeting our MTFS, and will need a different approach to salami slicing if we are to achieve the full potential of digital initiatives and programmes such as the Children’s System, which will pull together several workstreams into one.

On that subject, we are working towards something called Earned Autonomy with our Building Resilient Families and Communities programme, and have a key set of interviews coming up. In essence, the Government’s Troubled Families programme, which has been widely criticised in the media, has been a roaring success in Staffordshire, simply because we’ve put in enormous effort and thought. The Children’s System will essentially take the learning from BRFC and apply it across the county, intervening intensively with those families who have multiple issues early enough to prevent them from spiralling into difficulty.

We think that we’ve got a good story to tell, and I hope that our London friends agree.