Mr Pickles said: “Rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their £120 a month council tax bill. The public are fed up of all the bin do’s and bin don’ts – now our fund will mean councils can sort out their service and offer a high quality weekly collection or invest in ways to improve recycling through incentives and new technology.
a survey carried out by The Sunday Telegraph suggests many of the applicants favour initiatives such as weekly food waste collections over reinstating weekly collections of residual waste at which the fund was originally targeted.
Only one of 184 councils polled by the newspaper on Sunday (April 1) said they would apply for funding to reinstate a weekly collection of residual waste http://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/waste-management/dclg-receives-180-bids-for-ps250m-weekly-fund
Localism Bill: Local government and community empowerment
[Bill No 126 of 2010-11]
RESEARCH PAPER 11/02 11 January 2011
The Bill would abolish the requirement for local authorities to adopt a model code of conduct, instead introducing a voluntary code; and also abolishes Standards for England (previously the Standards Board for England) which oversees the current code. Instead, the Bill will introduce a requirement for local authorities to introduce a register of interests for members, as well as a new criminal offence of failing to declare a relevant interest. This element of the Bill has been criticised by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Local public audit plans attacked
04 Oct 2011
CONCERNS about the future of local public audit are plaguing stakeholders who attended a joint ACCA and NewStatesman discussion panel at yesterday’s Conservative Party conference.
Auditing the Big Society: Governance and Accountability united Stephen Hammond MP, third- in-command at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), ACCA’s public sector chief Gillian Fawcett and deputy head of Manchester City Council Sue Murphy.
Stakeholders are worried about proposals for the post-Audit Commission landscape, including local councils having no say in auditor appointments and the “armchair auditors” government hopes will boost public finance accountability.
The greatest scepticism was reserved for armchair auditors, with only Hammond appearing confident this volunteer workforce would materialise. Gillian Fawcett cited University College London research into the use of the Freedom of Information Act, which shows “very little appetite” for the discipline.
Audience members too expressed doubts, while Fawcett said if such a group were to emerge, it would be no substitute for professional auditors.
DCLG’s calls for accountancy-trained independent members on audit committees also sparked criticism. Chartered accountant Neil Reddin, a long-standing Bromley Council member who sits on the audit committee, noted these so-called non-execs would not be elected, meaning constituents might rightly question why they are charged with protecting the public purse.
DCLG hopes the ‘non-execs’ will ensure the highest level of accountability, casting an un-biased eye over local government spending. Fawcett noted it is “critical to have an audit committee with the right level of skills”, saying the bodies could benefit from independent experts.
Sue Murphy agreed it is essential for audit committees to exert “the correct level of challenge” but maintained “it is already there”, saying the bodies are rigorous in their scrutiny of council accounts.
Murphy argued the abolition of the Audit Commission was “done too fast”, warning appropriate transfer arrangements are lacking and too little consideration has been given to the destruction of strong working relationships with existing auditors.
Her concerns were echoed by a councillor from Preston, who criticised plans to appoint auditors on local councils’ behalf for contracts of up to three years. “We spend hundreds of thousands on the audit. There is no other service we would pay so much for without overseeing the appointment, or even checking contractors’ competency,” he complained.
DCLG also came under broader criticism for its handling of the Audit Commission abolition. Fawcett bemoaned the lost opportunity for a holistic look at public sector audit, examining other key players like the National Audit Office.
This was a chance to consider how we want the governance and accountability framework to look in the future, she said, suggesting wider exploration could have resulted in a more coherent regime.
Many participants assumed a ‘we were fine as we were’ attitude, questioning how the proposed changes will improve audit quality in practice.
Fawcett noted that in 150 years of local public audit, no Enron-style disaster has occurred, saying this is proof that auditors are sufficiently independent.
Critics could argue the not-for-profit slant of local government and smaller sums involved would make such crises – and the weak financial management that underpins them – less likely.
However, there is no doubt that stakeholders remain unconvinced by DCLG’s proposals. One noted a primary reason for abolishing the Audit Commission was to give councils more control over auditor selection, a popular measure that has yet to materialise.
Local Government Finance Bill:
SECTION 1: COUNCIL TAX AND WELFARE SUPPORT
Localising support for council tax – Impact assessment
Description and scale of key monetised costs by ‘main affected groups’
The main affected groups will be working age council tax benefit recipients, on the basis that local
authorities will be able to choose – through the design of their scheme – whether some awards should be
reduced. Decisions to absorb the saving through reduced spending on other areas, or increased revenue
from council tax could affect groups other than current recipients. The distribution of the £420m costs across
these groups will depend on the decisions of individual local authorities.
Localising support for council tax in England is intended to:
…create stronger incentives for councils to get people back into work and so support the
positive work incentives that will be introduced through the Government’s plans for Universal
The Government has considered the situation for low income pensioners who would currently be
eligible for support with their council tax bill. Unlike most other groups, pensioners cannot be
expected to seek paid employment to increase their income. The Government therefore
proposes that as a vulnerable group, low income pensioners should be protected from any
reduction in support as a result of this reform.
PENSIONERS CANNOT WORK AND THEREFORE ARE PROTECTED
Impact on individual claimants and work incentives
Claimant Group Number of claimants affected (thousand) Reduction in weekly council tax benefit % reduction in weekly council tax benefit Single, no child dependant 1,380 £2.42 16% Single with child dependant(s) 943 £2.52 16% Couple, no child dependant 281 £3.13 16% Couple with child dependant(s) 471 £3.11 16% All 3,075 £2.64 16%
The following groups may lose as a result of the policy: working age council tax benefit claimants,
council tax payers or any recipients of local services that may be reduced in order to meet any
funding shortfall. However, an accurate analysis of these losers is not possible since the design of
any council tax support scheme for working age people will be at the discretion of local authorities.
In addition, the means by which a local authority recovers any shortfall in funding will be for
themselves to decide.
The impact on working age claimants of three possible localised schemes, including the impact
on work incentives
a. The relative share of working age to pensioner claimants: Given that pensioners will be
protected from reduction in support for council tax, a higher share of pensioner claimants in a
particular authority means that they would have to make proportionately higher cuts to the
working age claimants.
b. The existence of other vulnerable groups amongst working age claimants: Authorities
may wish to protect vulnerable groups such as carers or the disabled from reduction in
DISABLED WHO CANNOT WORK – PROTECTION IS OPTIONAL!
Third of tenants face underoccupancy cut
18 February 2011 | By Isabel Hardman
Cutting housing benefit for working-age tenants who underoccupy their homes will affect around a third of those living in social housing, the government has revealed.
An impact assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions estimates that limiting housing benefit payments to the number of bedrooms that a social tenant actually needs will affect 670,000 people living in social housing.
The report, released yesterday as part of the government’s Welfare Reform Bill, says most tenants only underoccupy by one bedroom, and will lose around £11 a week in 2013/14, when the change comes into play.
Those with two or more bedrooms that they do not use will lose an average of £20 per week, the assessment says. It also found that tenants in the north, east midlands and Wales were more likely to be affected than those living in London and the south east.
Around 46 per cent of social tenants in the north east will see their housing benefit cut by around £12 a week, while only 19 per cent of London tenants will be affected.
The National Housing Federation condemned the plans. David Orr, chief executive, said: ‘Ministers have long promised to protect the vulnerable and yet these plans could force thousands of people to move out of homes they have lived in for many years.
‘As a result of these changes, thousands of couples are no longer able to offer their grown-up children a room to stay in should their circumstances change, and many single parents will be pushed away from friends, relatives and support networks.’
DWP housing benefit cut plans ‘cost more’
06/05/2011 | By Alex Wellman
Government plans to force tenants out of homes deemed ‘too big’ for them and into smaller ones could end up costing more due to a lack of available social housing, it has been claimed.
The Department of Work and Pension is proposing to slash the housing benefit for people ‘under-occupying’ properties, meaning the tenant will have to pick up the shortfall or leave their home.
The plans would see households with one spare room lose 15 per cent of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare rooms lose 25 per cent.
The NHF says the measure could cost the government more as 180,000 tenants are currently under-occupying two bedroom homes, but only 68,000 one bedroom social housing homes were available in 2009/10.
Many single parents will be pushed away from friends, relatives and support networks
The NHF argues this to be counter-productive saying ‘every tenant moving to the private rented sector will cost the taxpayer more in additional housing benefit.’
David Orr, NHF chief executive, also said the plans would force people away from family and friends they grew up with.
Mr Orr said: ‘As a result of these changes, thousands of couples are no longer able to offer their grown-up children a room to stay in should their circumstances change, and many single parents will be pushed away from friends, relatives and support networks.
‘Of course ‘under-occupation’ in the social housing sector should be tackled. But slashing people’s housing benefit and pushing them into poverty is not the answer.’
The DWP said the measures would not affect pensioners and that extra help from the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme and from an additional £130m was available to help smooth the transition of the Housing Benefit changes.
A DWP spokeswoman said: ‘Housing Benefit has spiralled out of control over the last decade and it’s unfair that people living in a property that is too large for their needs should do so at the expense of the taxpayer.
‘People should make choices about size and location of their accommodation based on what they can afford when in work, and this measure will bring the social rented sector in line with those claiming Housing Benefit in the private rented sector.
‘However, the Government is committed to supporting the needs of disabled people, including for the first time providing a bedroom for a non resident carer if someone needs overnight care for themselves or their partner.’
Tenants face £26 a week cut for under-occupation
9 December 2011 | By Tom Lloyd
Social tenants on housing benefit who are deemed to be under-occupying their homes stand to lose up to £26.65 a week under government plans.
The National Housing Federation has calculated households with a three-bedroom home in London who are deemed to only need one bedroom would lose £1,385 a year under proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill.
The government’s own impact assessment of the under-occupation policy, published in February, found the average cut would be £13 a week for those affected, but the NHF’s analysis highlights the extent of the cuts some families could face.
Using the latest government figures, and working on the assumption that benefits will be cut by 15 per cent for over-occupation of one bedroom and 25 per cent for two bedrooms, the federation has calculated the average cut will be £645.84 a year for tenants who have one spare room, and £1,076 for those with two spare rooms. Its calculations are based on three-bedroom homes.
The federation also identifies large regional variations in the cuts, with the figures at the lower 15 per cent rate ranging from £534.66 a year in the north east to £831.36 in London (see table below).
Of the 670,000 working-age claimants who will be affected, 78 per cent over-occupy by one room, and 22 per cent by two or more rooms. The overall figure for those affected is expected to rise to 760,000 by 2020 due to an increase in the retirement age.
The rules state one bedroom is allowed for each person or couple in a household. Children under the age of 15 are expected to share with one other child of the same gender, and those under the age of nine are expected to share with one other child regardless of gender.
The federation is lobbying the government to water down its proposals when the Welfare Reform Bill reaches report stage in the House of Lords, which is due on 12 December. Crossbench peer Lord Best has tabled an amendment calling for families to be allowed one extra bedroom on top of those they are deemed to require.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has suggested the government may be prepared to give some ground on the issue.
David Orr, chief executive of the federation, said: ‘We have been deeply concerned about this bedroom tax for some time but these new figures show the damage will be far worse than previously thought.
‘Thousands of hard-up families face penalties of up to £1,400 a year simply because the government have deemed their homes are suddenly too big for their needs.
‘This will have disastrous implications for a huge numbers of people already struggling to make ends meet in the tough economic climate, including foster carers, grandparents, disabled people and smaller families.’
Richard Wheeler Monday, April 9, 2012
More than 37,000 unemployed or low income workers across Norfolk could face cuts to their council tax benefit from next year.
Rural residents aged between 18 and 65 are also expected to endure the biggest financial hit, as government proposals seek to protect pensioners and vulnerable people from any benefit reductions.
Ministers want to reduce the annual £4.2bn council tax benefit bill by 10pc from April 2013 in an attempt to cut claimant numbers.
This money will also be given straight to councils as grants, rather than the current system in which they claim back money from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
With less money available, these plans are expected to force local authorities to either help fewer people, use reserves or increase council tax rates to make up the shortfall.
The government is also insisting “vulnerable groups, in particular pensioners” are protected.
This means working age people living in rural districts could lose more than their urban counterparts, as these areas have more residents of pensionable age.
Norfolk’s seven district councils currently claim £61.46m from the DWP to pay council tax benefit.
A 10pc reduction would see losses of £1.5m for Norwich City Council, £1.16m at West Norfolk Council, £1.06m at Breckland Council, £800,000 at North Norfolk District Council, £770,000 at South Norfolk Council, £650,000 at Broadland District Council and £250,000 at Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
Talks are still ongoing about whether all councils will lose 10pc or if some will face bigger reductions than others.
Paul Carrick, Broadland cabinet member for finance, said Norfolk’s district councils would work together to avoid a “postcode lottery”, which could emerge if neighbouring authorities took different approaches.
He said: “The government says pensioners can’t be touched and it only leaves those with lower incomes.
“The government has said it will be less than before. You can work out who will suffer if it materialises that way.
“Every council in the country is affected by it. There’s nobody exempt by these changes.”
Mr Carrick added it was clear Broadland would not be able to replace the money it is predicted to lose.
He said: “Half-a-million pounds in a budget like Broadland’s, which has historically always been low and always will be as we get value for money on everything, you can’t afford to do it.
“However the figures pan out, we will have a difficult decision to have to make. Do we subsidise it out of the rates? Can we afford to? That’s a big question we need to address. We are not ducking it at the moment, but we can’t do it without the full facts.”
There are 82,090 people who receive council tax benefit in Norfolk, with 37,906 identified as working age claimants and 36,650 of pensionable age. The remaining 7,534 claimants are supported by Broadland District Council, which said it was unable to distinguish the two groups.
Concerns have been expressed there might not be enough time to implement the changes properly if councils are not told sooner rather than later how much money they will lose.
None of the Norfolk councils are yet in a position to assess how working age people will be affected.
But in neighbouring Lincolnshire, City of Lincoln Council has estimated its unemployed and low income workers will lose 17pc of their benefit.
Working age claimants in North Kesteven District Council’s area could lose 25 per cent of their cash.
This is because the authority has more pensioners living in its area who need their benefit protecting.
Peter Battrick, North Norfolk District Council communications manager, said: “Government is saying overall nationally there will be a reduction of 10pc but we as a local authority have received no information as to what this reduction will be for individual authorities.
“It actually could be less or could be more depending on who you are and where you are.”
Documents from the Communities and Local Government Department assessing the impact of the changes state: “The key sensitivity is the local authority response to the reforms. Authorities will have discretion over exactly how they achieve the necessary savings and how the new council tax support scheme for working age claimants will work.”
Communities and Local Government Committee – Fifth Report
Localisation issues in welfare reform
12 September 2011.
Conclusions and recommendations
1. In addition to its formal response to our report, DCLG should take into account the chapter about council tax support when collating responses to its consultation on that subject. (Paragraph 4)
The discretionary Social Fund
2. We acknowledge the concerns of those who fear that localisation of the discretionary Social Fund will result in a ‘postcode lottery’ of support, or that it will be a ‘poisoned chalice’ for local authorities. However, we consider that councils’ local knowledge, broad responsibilities and experience of benefits administration put them in an ideal position to refine and deliver the successor schemes to Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans. (Paragraph 16)
3. We urge the Department to reconsider, however, whether social services functions in upper-tier authorities are the most appropriate channel for this service, given that many current recipients of CCGs and CLs are not social services clients. The service should be delivered by teams that are able to make contact with the widest possible range of people who might need support, including through partnership with other organisations and other relevant local authority functions. (Paragraph 17)
4. We welcome the Government’s assurances that the allocation of funds for disbursement will be calibrated against legitimate demand, and that administration costs will be separately and fully funded. However, we have doubts about how accurately demand in the last quarter of next year will predict demand in the longer term. We also caution against assumptions that a localised system will be cheaper to administer, at least in the short term. The level of resource given to councils must accurately reflect the costs of setting up and running new local schemes, rather than the cost of administering the discretionary Social Fund in its current form. (Paragraph 21)
5. The Government’s decision not to ring-fence the funds that will be devolved for this purpose may carry some risks at a time of difficult financial circumstances for councils. Nonetheless, we accept that it is desirable that local authorities have autonomy to use the resource in innovative ways. However, we recommend that central government identifies clearly the amounts that are being allocated to local authorities, and collects information about their use, until the new arrangements have bedded in—we suggest a period of five years. This would provide some reassurance about the effectiveness of the new system in helping those in need, and provide clearer information to local voters about whether their local authority was choosing to spend less than the allocated amount. (Paragraph 25)
Council Tax Benefit
6. We agree that it is desirable for local authorities to be able to—in the Minister’s phrase—”control their destiny”, but the Government should not pretend that control over diminished resources, within centrally-imposed constraints, is unproblematic. Nor can it be considered a great advance for the policy of localism. The proposals for the localisation of council tax support seem to us to provide an illusion of delegation with a minimum of real discretion, virtually guaranteeing that the funds available to support working-age unemployed people will be squeezed. (Paragraph 43)
7. We have seen little evidence to support the hope that new and better-paying jobs for individuals, immediately sufficient to off-set the 10% reduction in the benefit budget, will inevitably follow from these incentives; the means of economic growth are never solely in the gift of individual local authorities. We have commented in a previous report that councils would have welcomed more involvement in the development of the Work Programme to improve their capacity to tackle worklessness. It is not at all clear that the supposed incentives of the new council tax support system will make local authorities feel that they are partners with central government in the achievement of economic development. (Paragraph 44)
[44. The Government believes the answer to this criticism is economic growth, incentivised by local authorities having to find a 10% saving and wanting to achieve still greater savings. We have seen little evidence to support the hope that new and better-paying jobs for individuals, immediately sufficient to off-set the 10% reduction in the benefit budget, will inevitably follow from these incentives; the means of economic growth are never solely in the gift of individual local authorities. We have commented in a previous report that councils would have welcomed more involvement in the development of the Work Programme to improve their capacity to tackle worklessness. It is not at all clear that the supposed incentives of the new council tax support system will make local authorities feel that they are partners with central government in the achievement of economic development.]
8. We are concerned about the financial risk to local authorities from assuming responsibility, within a fixed budget, for a means-tested benefit for which demand could increase as well as decrease. Collaboration between councils may share but not remove the risk, at a time when most council budgets will already be stretched to their limit. We recommend that the Government provide some means to access flexible funding to ensure that there is no possibility of local authorities either rationing support or raiding other budgets in-year to fulfil the terms of their council tax support scheme. Furthermore, a fixed grant will disincentivise efforts by local authorities to improve take-up among those groups who at present under-claim Council Tax Benefit. (Paragraph 48)
9. By the time the Department’s response to the consultation is published, there will be little more than a year for local authorities to design and implement their council tax support schemes, which is an extremely challenging timeframe. Too much time has been lost. The Government needs to consider that, even if local authorities prove technically capable of establishing new schemes to the original timescale, it might not be wise to press ahead so hastily. Reform of Council Tax Benefit will affect a huge number of households, and it is vital that the systems used to deliver it are robust. (Paragraph 56)
10. We recommend that the Government delay the introduction of the new council tax support system by a year or more, if consultation with local authorities indicates that this would reduce the risks inherent in introducing many complex changes concurrently. (Paragraph 57)
11. We understand and are sympathetic to the policy intention behind the Universal Credit, but believe that in the case of support for housing costs, councils should retain administrative responsibility. It is incongruous for a Government committed to decentralisation to plan to remove from local authorities a function which they administer well, in which they have irreplaceable expertise, and which greatly affects other areas of local policy-making and service delivery such as housing strategy and homelessness. Furthermore, while Universal Credit aims to make the system simpler, in splitting responsibility for Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit it may introduce unnecessary complexity for customers. (Paragraph 68)
12. We are concerned about the potential negative impact of direct payment arrangements for the Universal Credit on social landlords and the availability of finance for investment in the social housing sector. We are encouraged by the Minister’s assurance that final decisions have not yet been made on this point, and recommend that a thorough assessment of the possible impact of direct payment on housing associations’ ability to borrow be undertaken before arrangements are finalised. (Paragraph 72)
SECTION 2: LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING
The Bill has been introduced against a background of spending cuts as announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) of 20 October 20103 and in the local government finance settlement of 16 December.
The local government finance settlement introduced cuts for local authorities, although for 2011/12 the maximum was set at an 8.9% reduction in revenue spending power. The main points were:
Formula grant to all local authorities in England, including police forces, will fall by 9.9% in 2011/12 and 7.3% in 2012/13.
Formula grant to local authorities, excluding grants to the police, will fall by 11.6% in 2011/12 and 7.5% in 2012/13.
In its briefing on the announcement, the Local Government Association (LGA) suggested that the formula grant would fall by 12.1% in 2011/12. This figure is the fall in the formula grant element funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and excludes the Home Office police grant element.
Total revenue spending power of non-police local authorities will fall by 4.5% in 2011/12 and 3.3% in 2012/13.
In order to ensure that no local authority was faced with a reduction of more than 8.9% in revenue spending power, a transition grant of £85m has been provided by DCLG.
The total central government funding for all local authorities in England, Aggregate External Finance (AEF), will fall by 2.7% in 2011/12. This includes ring-fenced grants for frontline education.
SECTION 3: THE BIG SOCIETY
Public Administration Committee – 902-I Seventeenth Report
The Big Society – 7 December 2011
Opening public services to alternative providers
4. We welcome the Government’s commitment to encourage the participation of the charitable sector in the provision of public services. We recognise that not all public services are suitable to be delivered by charities and that not all charities are willing or capable to deliver services. Charities and community groups have shown that they can provide some public services at better value for money than those delivered by the state and that some wish to do so. We have yet to see how the Government will encourage this since contracting out continues to favour the larger, more commercial providers. In essence, this is the challenge: to build the ‘little society’, rather than the ‘Tesco’ charities that are skilled at tendering. (Paragraph 38)
Effect on the voluntary sector
6. Increasing the number of charities and community groups that deliver public services will change how the charity sector operates as a whole. There is a danger that charities may become agents of public policy, subject to targets and incentives and thereby becoming an extension of the state. We expect to consider the state of the charity sector in a later inquiry. (Paragraph 48)
The role of the private sector
7. Opening up public services to new providers raises the prospect of much greater private sector involvement, as many of our witnesses have indicated. Private sector large contractors may provide the cheapest option in the first round, which may drive out smaller, more innovative, more local and more accountable providers. We recommend that Government regularly review the level of large private sector involvement in public services to ensure that the objective of the Big Society project of empowering communities over local services is being achieved. (Paragraph 53)
A voluntary sector bias?
8. Ministers have spoken both of promoting charities as the favoured provider for public services and in favour of a more mixed economy with private sector providers also involved. The officials responsible for commissioning and managing contracts for public services need to know whether Ministers wish them to prefer the voluntary sector over offers of potentially better value. Clear Ministerial guidance to the civil servants and local authority officials responsible for the commissioning and tendering of public services is therefore imperative. (Paragraph 58)
The current funding situation: ‘the funding gap’
9. We are concerned that many charitable and voluntary organisations are suffering the immediate effects of reductions in public spending. In some cases their existence is at risk, yet they are the very organisations which may wish to participate in the Government’s Big Society policies. (Paragraph 71)
Accountability, equity, representation and management
26. The Minister must set out clear lines of accountability for the provision of public services under its new arrangements together with a clear mechanism for members of the public to raise concerns about services. To fail to do so could be fatal to the chances of success for the Big Society project. (Paragraph 151)
27. The principle of accountability to Parliament for the expenditure of public money by a department’s accounting officer is key to the arrangements for fiscal control exercised by Parliament. The accounting structure for devolved public services will be necessarily complex. We ask the Government in its response to outline how this will work in practice. (Paragraph 152)
28. The role of Parliament’s Ombudsman is primarily a matter for Parliament, and is not an instrument for particular government policies. We share the Ombudsman’s concern that it is not the role of her office to be an advocate for the Government’s choice agenda. (Paragraph 153)
29. Ministers have not set out clearly what success means for the Big Society project, nor produced metrics for success. In the absence of such statements an impression of policies made solely on the basis of anecdotes or single examples has developed. However, the Government has committed to regular Departmental reporting on progress towards the aims of the White Paper on Open Public Services, starting in April 2012. We recommend that the Government publish a clear statement, with practical examples, of what the Big Society project is intended to achieve and then develop the capacity to collect standard data on public service provision through the Big Society project, with a view to releasing it in open, accessible and meaningful formats, to allow the public to assess and judge success. (Paragraph 159)
30. The substantial change expected to result from the Big Society project, namely the devolution of power to communities and citizens will not occur overnight: if successful, as witnesses suggested, it will take a generation. The Government’s Big Society statements have, so far, failed to communicate this point effectively. There is public confusion with the policy agenda, eighteen months into this administration. Confusion also still exists among many service providers. Early examples, such as the Work Programme, have caused the charitable sector to express serious reservations about the implementation of the Government’s ambitions in practice. (Paragraph 160)
31. To bring in charities and voluntary groups to deliver public services, the government must take steps to address the barriers they experience in the contracting and commissioning system, which means developing a plan to address roles, tasks, responsibilities and skills in Whitehall departments.
a) A single Big Society Minister, who has a cross-cutting brief, to help other Ministers to drive through this agenda once they begin reporting progress against the aims of the Open Public Services White Paper from April 2012.
b) An impact assessment, applied to every Government policy, statutory instrument, and new Bill, which asks the simple question: “what substantively will this do to build social capital, people power, and social entrepreneurs?”
Unless this is done, the Big Society project will not succeed. (Paragraph 161)
The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
17 October 2011
LGA Conference – Problem Families and Community Budgets
Draft text of the speech – may differ from the delivered version.
The moment some children are born their life chances are simply written off.
From day one their lives are defined by the problems that surround them.
Drugs. Alcohol. Crime. Mental illness. Unemployment. They grow up in chaos and their own lives are chaotic.
During the summer riots the common refrain was, where are the parents? Why aren’t they keeping their kids indoors? Why weren’t they with them in court?
The whole country got a sudden, unwelcome insight into our problem families. The ones that make misery in their communities and cause misery to themselves.
Any local politician worth his salt will already know the family members by name – along with the police, the social workers, the courts, the schools, the A&E. And they will be known and avoided in their local neighbourhoods.
There are 120,000 plus of these problem families.
And there hasn’t been a lack of interventions. A lack of money spent. Less than one per cent of the population, they cost the economy over eight billion pounds a year.
It’s a story of futility and waste. Waste of money. Waste of people.
And it has simply got to stop. We are going to stop it.
We can no longer afford the luxury of fruitless, uncoordinated investment. The damaged lives and communities.
The Prime Minister has set out an ambition of turning the lives of these families around by the end of Parliament.
I’m in charge of delivering this across Whitehall.
And someone’s got to show local leadership to deliver this on the ground. And that should be you in local government.
So don’t dither or fret. Um and ah. Don’t pass the buck. This is it.
Last week the Prime Minister announced a Troubled Families Unit in my Department led by Louise Casey.
She will be working on an action plan for what needs to be done nationally and locally to deliver this ambition. That will include cutting the bureaucracy that gets in your way.
And she’ll be supporting and talking to you. To ensure that all across the country, councils and their partners are prioritising the activities and interventions which work.
If you’re wondering is this a threat to your independence – the answer is yes, it is a threat. It is a threat if you don’t get on with things.
Think of this as a race to deliver by 2015. If you motor along then we’ll play catch up. But if we get there first – you’ll find yourselves behind the agenda.
And I’m sorry about people who tell me they’ve already got a programme that deals with this. Well, if it was all dealt with we wouldn’t be here.
One or two projects along the right lines isn’t nearly enough to solve this problem.
So be in no doubt – we are in a hurry, we mean to deliver.
You don’t need to talk about it or show empathy. I want you to get on with it.
And I know local government can get results. But understand – this isn’t either or. We are going to deliver on this.
So get moving.
Louise is starting at the end of this month.
And you need to be well on your way to getting a plan worked out by Christmas.
Don’t think even think about putting up your Christmas tree unless you’ve got that plan – not a single bauble. If Santa’s already come calling then it’s too late.
You need to know:
- Who are your families?
- What do they cost?
- What are your interventions?
- What is working?
You won’t get off a first base if you don’t know this.
You’ve got to dare to share.
That’s what they say in Salford. Where you’ve got the doctors, the dentists, the social workers, the Job Centres, the police all agreeing to share key information.
This is a massive, crucial culture change – sharing data automatically. And it’s got to be driven from the top.
And don’t moan to me that people won’t co-operate, just do it. Don’t say there are bureaucratic obstacles – we’ll remove them.
For too long everyone from the police to the social workers to health care professionals have worked in isolation.
Up to twenty local agencies are involved with the same family – costing local services up to £330,000 per family every year.
It’s expensive. It’s ineffective. Agencies overlap and pull in different directions. Families get pushed from pillar to post and feel like no one’s on their side.
It’s a bad deal all round.
In contrast one co-ordinated and integrated intervention that’s better for families – can cost around £14,000. Meaning yearly costs plummet by around £70,000 for each family.
The message here is simple: stop throwing money away and get coordinated.
And don’t just tick the boxes. It’s not about just getting in touch with a family. Engaging with them.
We need action and results – not endless restating the problems.
You don’t get answers by repeating the question enough times.
We know we’ve got a problem. We’ve analysed. We’ve seen it. Now we’ve got to do something about it.
Like getting kids back to schools, adults into employment, stopping criminal behaviour.
I’ve heard about an approach where intervention can start in the dentist’s chair when a fistfight leads to broken teeth. It’s a great dentist that cares about your family life as well as your teeth.
I’m glad to see over 70 of you have signed up to use a Community Budget approach to problem families which is all about bringing the people and the resources together. Fitting the solution around the problem instead of visa versa.
I know my colleague Baroness Hanham has done some intensive work with many of you over the summer. Looking at what barriers were getting in the way of ambitious Community Budgets.
Look online today and see their work. Including a definitive and practical data sharing guide – led by Greater Manchester partners to point you in the right direction.
This is a tough agenda – tough for me and tough for you.
But when you look at the pictures in your municipal halls of your predecessors, think – you’re going to do what they couldn’t.
They couldn’t crack this but you’re going to crack it.
I believe that you can deliver on this agenda.
And that’s because I know when you unchain local agencies from Whitehall bureaucracy – it adds up to local energy, local initiative and local innovation.
I also want to talk to you today about the next stage of the localism agenda. The next phase of Community Budgets.
This is about putting you in a position to really deliver your ideas.
It’s money and power to you.
We’ve always said in order to make localism a reality, greater legal freedom needs to go hand in hand with greater freedom over finances.
So we’re supporting the creation of four locally led pilots:
Two Community Budgets for neighbourhoods. That will be co-designed by local people. Looking at what public services from safety to health can be managed at neighbourhood level.
And two Community Budgets for a whole area. That bring together all funding for local services into one place. A single budget. That will get to the heart of what barriers stop you from controlling the purse strings.
We’ve published a Prospectus today and you might be thinking this looks as dull as dishwater.
That’s because it is as dull as dishwater.
You see we didn’t want to frighten the rest of Whitehall off. If they’d given me something more exciting I’d have had to tell them to dull it down.
But you can take it and run with it. Flesh it out, give it bones, put blood in its veins.
In fact make it the thumping heart of your community.
Because this is your opportunity to change the future of the way public services are funded.
Test your ambitions to the limit.
And the old hands in Whitehall won’t realise they’ve lost control until it’s too late.
If you need to ask how to use this then you’re not up to it – stand down and let someone else try.
But bid for this and it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done.
And while these places forge ahead – the rest of you need to make sure you’re not left behind.
If you have ideas to organise services better – let’s hear them. If you need more freedom over budgets – make your case.
I can’t guarantee that Government will give you everything you want but I can guarantee we’ll listen.
Nothing is off the table.
Make us an offer we can’t refuse.
Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten submission from the Department for Communities and Local Government
The Prime Minister’s commitment to troubled families and establishment of new delivery arrangements
New research shows that these families cost government £9 billion per year in England alone. This equates to an average cost of £75,000 per troubled family, per year. It is not unusual to have up to 20 different professionals engaged and costing up to £250-£350,000 per family.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government1 will lead work designed to achieve the Prime Minister’s ambition to turn around the lives of 120,000 of the most troubled families by the end of the Parliament. A new Troubled Families Team was established on 1 November in the Department for Communities and Local Government to drive this work forward.
This programme will involve:
Resources to lever in local investment and incentivise the reprioritisation of funds to boost pace and urgency. An overall budget of £420 million over four years will support this work.
Co-ordination across central government, local government and other local agencies to line up relevant programmes behind this ambition and remove structural obstacles that block progress.
Practical support and encouragement to ensure all the right families are being identified and that all agencies are prioritising the activities and interventions which evidence shows can help turn the lives of families around.
The application of Community Budget principles if areas choose to use them.
Governance with the Secretary of State and Louise Casey reporting to the Prime Minister and an Inter Ministerial Group chaired by the Secretary of State.
We will track success against clear, easy to measure criteria and implement a strategy to stop the flow of new families replacing those who leave this group and challenge areas not showing the required leadership and necessary progress.
1. Community Budgets are a mechanism to enable local areas to agree outcomes and align budgets across different agencies. Many of the agencies are sponsored by Government Departments, so central Government support was offered from the outset. The first 16 Community Budget areas to tackle families with multiple problems (CB-FMP) had a lead contact in Whitehall and the Local Government Association (LGA) to discuss initial proposals for governance arrangements; how Whitehall and LGA colleagues could help; and to agree the work programme needed to implement the community budgets.
This initial phase was lead by a Community Budgets Group, chaired by Lord Bichard with Whitehall Directors General, Chief Executives from the first 16 areas and representatives from police and health, Barnardos, and Development Trusts Association from the third sector. Its focus was the delivery of community budgets among the first 16 areas by April 2011.Their role was to enable and support them by:
facilitating collaborative working between areas, LGA and central government;
driving forward local flexibility in pooling and aligning funding and encouraging places to take control and transform services;
assisting the dismantling of, and preventing new, centrally-created barriers to local innovation.
Individual Whitehall Champions were appointed to support each of the first 16 areas. They acted as Whitehall representatives for the area: escalating issues, brokering agreements, and identifying the “win-win” for areas and Whitehall. They also helped areas on a range of issues from channelling enquiries to policy experts, to developing approaches to local governance and accountability.
Ministerial meetings with Leaders from the first 16 areas took place in early 2011, addressing outstanding barriers to implementation. Issues addressed included arrangements with the Work Programme and the European Social Fund (with DWP) and NHS clusters (with DH). Ministers and Leaders agreed to establish a Community Budgets Political Leadership Group (PLG). Chaired by Baroness Hanham and bringing together Leaders and Chief Executives from the first 16 areas, it focussed on identifying, co-designing and delivering products to assist in community budget set-up. It met four times between April and the publication of initial products in October 2011.
2. Barriers have been identified by the areas involved via two key routes: the PLG, chaired by Baroness Hanham, and the Exemplar bids which DfE ran for the first 16 areas. Four particular areas were identified: data sharing, innovative finance, leadership and simplifying assessments. Leaders volunteered to lead work to tackle these obstacles, with support from DCLG as well as other departments and the LGA. This work is still ongoing, with the outputs to date available for all on the LGA’s website: http://www.local.gov.uk/604.
3. Financial accountability:
A Memorandum of Understanding is being developed between Government departments to signal the support of Accounting Officers for Community Budget pooling, within the legal abilities of each organisation, across a partnership. HM Treasury and the NAO have been closely involved, alongside Departments. The Whole-Place pilots will look further at financial accountability issues arising from wider local pooling;
DCLG led work, commissioned by Sir Gus O’Donnell, on financial accountability in decentralised public services. This recommends that departments publish an accountability System Statement setting out the framework of local accountability measures that the Accounting Officer relies on to ensure the proper uses of public money and value for money: these systems should be flexible enough to allow for the local pooling of budgets. The report4 contains an example Statement for local government. The key elements of this system are clear roles for councillors and for officers (particularly the chief finance officer, known as the section 151 officer), and framework of financial rules, for requiring authorities to balance their budget. This work is subject to an ongoing conversation with the Public Accounts Committee.
Local Governance: The community budget approach is that local partners come together and agree how services can be better delivered, how they will organise themselves, performance manage and agree how funding should be managed in order to ensure the approach works to transform services. Local partners seek to use collaborative arrangements such as pooled and aligned funding and other financial mechanisms to support their redesign of services.
Bringing partners together: DfE’s Exemplars encouraged areas to:
Explore the need for a consistent implementation model.
Examine structural reforms to enable integrated working and funding towards the delivery of public services such as by joint commissioning and innovative investment models such as payment by results, investment agreements/systematic benefits realisation.
Develop robust evidence on effectiveness with clear cost/benefit analysis and effective evaluation.
Utilise pooled budgets and aligned resources aims for traditional barriers to partnership working to be overcome allowing more efficient, economic and effective use of resources.
The barriers identified by Ministers and Leaders included:
Governance—looking at what is critical by way of clear lines of accountability, planning and finance. Some areas have built on previous partnerships, such as Local Strategic Partnerships whereas others have developed Joint Investment Boards. Examined by Greater Manchester, Swindon and Salford.
Leadership—crucial for managing a successful community budget with strong political leadership across the area and a clear vision for reform supported by senior champions and partner organisation sponsors.
Clear Aims & Objectives—clarity and associated milestones have been examined by Hull with ownership, peer support and challenge being considered as key aspects for success.
4. It is too early for robust evidence of the effectiveness of community budgets to be absolute, but a picture is emerging about what is needed to develop an ambitious approach:
A tailored approach—there is no one single method that will work for all areas. Each area needs to understand current best practice and interventions that are effective and apply them to their own circumstances and partnership dynamics;
Early agreement amongst partners about the problem, its causes and the objectives and outcomes that they want to achieve – this provides a clear focus;
Strong local leadership – areas where there is input from senior leaders in local organisations from the outset tend to be able to develop a community budget more quickly and strongly;
Dedicated capacity to develop options for service redesign and the vehicles for funding them, as well spending time with partners to secure agreement;
Strong and effective partnership working where partners are able to take difficult decisions, pool resources and overcome sovereignty concerns to tackle the problem rather than defend individual organisational interests;
A new mindset focused on finding solutions to barriers that prevent better service delivery rather than using barriers to maintain the status quo; and,
A new relationship between national and local partners to tackle service delivery barriers together and co-design solutions.