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LAs : Financial Meltdown - Nationwide / Support Services CUTS : Council Tax Rises / Arrears - Page 7 - Carers UK Forum

LAs : Financial Meltdown - Nationwide / Support Services CUTS : Council Tax Rises / Arrears

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
83 posts
One manor down .... another 200 or so on the waiting list ???

In reality , this first started in 2004 ... well documented by yours truly and others on the old PRT forum.

Now , some 15 years later , we are finally seeing some affirmative action.

Trouble is , carers ... like me ... cannot get the lost hours back when daycare centres wer cloded ... nor can our carees
fully recover from the effects of social care being either cutback or ... priced out of reach ... and loss of friends through
those daycare centres.
My husband has been extremely fortunate.
When the LA increased his charges by 11.5 % with no discussion I sent an email to the CC for Adult Social Care. She came out to visit. Following her visit the Senior Assessor came out and did a new assessment. The result is his monthly cost has been quite considerably reduced.
The motto here is 'don't take anything lying down' Age does not effect one's brain as many organisation's appear to think. :o
Interesting , Amble ... far too many accept increases with just an obituary snarl.

On many manors ... Liverpool a classic example featured in an interlocking thread ... one arm of an LA is increasing
charges / cutting back services whereas another arm is struggling to deal with the fallout ... human beings falling through
that mythical safety net !

The classic being pursing many for Council Tax arrears and , at the same time , granting emergency aid to stop them
being evicted !

For more on that ... second only to the FOOD BANK thread in terms of " Absolute disbelief " for many readers :

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/news-and ... 8?start=20


Really puts the growing chasm between carers into prospective ... those affected directly by either thread and ...
those who are not ???
LA pension funds ... on the last figure available ... 35 BILLION IN DEFICIT ... adding to whatever Council Tax rise is sort :


Image


Council staff pensions at risk from Woodford investments.

Three Welsh local authorities have put in up to £10m in sister scheme hit by suspension of flagship fund.


Council workers have been left exposed to the underperformance of Neil Woodford’s stock market-listed fund, with a £10m investment by council pensions schemes at risk from the fund’s declining share price.

Shares in the Woodford Patient Capital Trust Fund have tumbled 25% to 58p since 3 June, when Woodford made the shock decision to suspend his flagship Equity Income Fund, following a surge in redemptions sparked by bad market bets.

While the FTSE 250-listed fund is not directly affected by the suspension, the move at its sister fund caused a sell off in shares and the value of shareholder investments to decline.

At least three local authority pension funds, including Derbyshire, West Yorkshire and Dyfed in Wales, have investments tied up in Woodford’s patient capital fund and risk seeing their investments fall further as the stock price continues to slide. Those pensions investments help fund retirement benefits for members including local government employees, councillors, school teachers, charities and housing association staff.

Concerns over public investments in Woodford’s fund first came into focus when Kent County Council was blocked from pulling £263m from his equity income fund at the end of May. It is believed that the local authority’s request prompted Woodford to suspend the fund.

Joel Benjamin, a member of Research for Action, which investigates public finances, said the episode raised questions over whether councils should be trusted to make large, risky investments.

“Local authorities have a dubious record investing money on our behalf, with £1bn losses in Iceland’s banks in 2008 still fresh in people’s minds,” he said.

The £14.3bn West Yorkshire Pension Fund confirmed it holds a £3.5m stake in the listed vehicle, but stressed its investments are reviewed on a regular basis. It refused to comment further on its patient capital trust holdings and confirmed it never held shares in Woodford’s suspended equity income fund.

Meanwhile, the rapid fall in Woodford’s share price has left Derbyshire’s pension fund £800,000 worse off.


Derbyshire’s pension scheme, which is worth £5bn and has 100,000 members, holds 5m shares in Woodford’s funds as part of its private equity portfolio. That investment is now worth £3m compared with £3.8m at the start of June.

Jason Hollands, a managing director at Tiley Investment Management, said: “The trust is clearly experiencing significant selling pressure, on the back of the reputational hit to the manager, and because it has cross holdings in a number of businesses in common with the suspended fund which the latter needs to sell.”

The last snapshot of the trust’s top 10 holdings included digital lender Atom Bank, a cold fusion nuclear energy firm called Industrial Heath, and artificial intelligence business Benevolent AI.

While Hollands said the council pension fund holdings in Woodford are relatively small given the typical size of local authority retirement schemes, they are at risk of a loss on investment if shares end up being sold before the price recovers.

The Dyfed Pension Fund, which manages the pension benefits for Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion county councils, holds a £2.4m stake in Woodford’s listed fund. It accounts for 0.1% of its total £2.4bn pension scheme.

“We have nothing invested in the Equity Income fund,” a Carmarthenshire spokeswoman said on behalf of the Dyfed Pension Fund. “We cannot comment further on future plans at this time.”


Woodford Patient Capital Trust declined to comment on the pension scheme holdings and share price decline. The trust’s board tried to calm investor nerves last week by saying its operations had not been affected by the equity income fund suspension.

Susan Serle, the trust’s chair, said: “The board is pleased with the operational progress of its portfolio companies, which the board believes continue to have the potential to deliver attractive returns, in line with the long-term mandate of the company.

“The operational performance of these businesses is not impacted by recent events.”
Sure Start numbers plummet as cuts hit children’s services.

Exclusive : study reveals 20% decline in use with biggest fall in England’s poorest areas.



Local authority spending cuts have driven a 20% fall in the number of youngsters using Sure Start children’s centres in just four years, with the most dramatic decline occurring in some of England’s poorest areas, a study has found.

The Action for Children charity estimates that 1.8 million children used Sure Start centres in England in 2017-18 – down from 2.2 million four years earlier – a direct consequence, it says, of a 62% cut in council early years service spending since 2010.

The charity said it was especially concerned that deprived authorities had reported the biggest reductions in use, at a time when rising poverty was likely to have fuelled demand for parent and child support services in those areas.

Numbers of children using Start Start in the 30 most deprived authorities were down by 22%, compared with 12% in the 30 least deprived councils, the study found. Overall, 10 councils reported a decline of more than 50% in children’s centre visits over the four-year period, while a further 47 reported reductions of 20% or more.

Sure Start was a flagship New Labour project designed to boost the educational and life chances of socially and economically disadvantaged children. The centres offer childcare and play sessions, parenting advice and employment coaching. At their peak in 2010, there were 3,600 centres, with a budget of about £1.8bn.

Between 500 and 1,000 Sure Start centres have closed in England since 2010, according to recent research. But “closure” figures can mask the way some councils kept centres open while reducing services. Estimating footfall gave a more nuanced view of the impact of funding cuts, the charity said.

The research findings – coupled with the failure of some councils to collect robust data on Sure Start centre use – raise questions about whether local authorities were meeting their duties to ensure there is adequate children’s centre provision in their area, it added.

Last week, campaigners in Buckinghamshire won permission at the high court to challenge plans by Buckinghamshire county council to close 19 of its 35 centres in September. A judicial review hearing in July will consider whether the council has breached its legal duties to provide sufficient Sure Start coverage.

Imran Hussain, Action for Children’s director of policy, said despite the importance of children’s centres and their popularity among many families, years of cuts had left councils with little choice but to reduce Sure Start budgets and close centres. As a result, many services were harder to access.

“Children’s centres are unable to continue to reach families across communities, leaving many thousands of new parents with nowhere to turn for early help support – a far cry from the idea of easily accessible, one-stop-shops within pram-pushing distance,” he said.

A recent study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found Sure Start centres in deprived areas that offered high levels of service delivered major health benefits and millions of pounds in NHS savings through reduced hospitalisation.

The child poverty expert Naomi Eisenstadt said it was not surprising the largest reductions in use were in the poorest areas containing the biggest concentrations of disadvantaged children as these areas had experienced disproportionately severe government funding cuts.

She added that the hollowing out of Sure Start in recent years had swept away outreach services designed to encourage the most disadvantaged and “hard to reach” families to come to the centres, and this may also have have impacted on declining take up.

Action for Children, which provides 116 children’s centres in England on behalf of councils, said its figures were underestimates, partly because about 20% of all 152 upper tier authorities that responded to its freedom of information requests said they had not collected data on children’s centre use over the full four-year period.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential and since 2013, the disadvantage gap for children at age five has narrowed.

“More than 700,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds have benefited from 15 hours’ free childcare since its introduction in 2013, and 600,000 three- and four-year-olds have benefited from a 30-hours place in the first two years.

They added: “We believe it is up to local councils to decide how to organise and commission services in their areas, as they are best-placed to understand local needs.”
May only be Lancashire but ... how many more useful services like this one have disappeared nationwide ?


Handyman service for Lancashire's elderly and disabled to shut.

An odd job service and advice scheme designed to help keep people independent in their own homes will come to an end next year.


Lancashire County Council’s home improvement service provides minor housing repairs for the disabled, anybody with a long-term health condition and residents at risk of being admitted to hospital or care. The labour for the jobs comes free of charge, with residents paying only for materials.

The service also arranges quotes for more significant work and offers guidance on applying for welfare entitlements and grants for upgrades in the home.

A separate home adaptation service, which has recently been delivered under the same umbrella, will continue. The authority is statutorily required to provide assistance features such as additional banister rails and ramps, up to a maximum value of £1,000 – a service which cost the authority more than £1m last year.

Cabinet members agreed to end the broader scheme, which will save County Hall £880,000 per year.

Conservative council leader Geoff Driver said the service should be delivered differently.

“One of our stated objectives is to help people live well in their own homes and this service undoubtedly helps along those lines – however, the way it is set up at the present time is not the most efficient, so we need to make sure we get the best service and the best value.

“There’s very little in the [public consultation responses] that persuade us that we’re wrong in our perception that it could be done more effectively,” County Cllr Driver said.

However, papers presented to cabinet revealed that the financial viability of home improvement agencies, which deliver the complete service, could be threatened by the move. That could put a question mark over whether there would be sufficient capacity to deliver the continuing minor adaptations scheme, which will now be advertised as a standalone contract.

The meeting heard that disabled facilities grants awarded to district councils for home adaptations could bridge some of the gap.

But Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali described the change as a “savage cut”.

“There are a lot of districts that have got huge waits for disabled facilities grants, because of the complexities of people’s needs. In some [areas], getting a stairlift is difficult.

“The people who struggle – the sick and the elderly – will face the brunt of these cuts.

“It’s a shame on the government and a shame on this authority,” County Cllr Ali said.

Sixty percent of people responding to a public consultation on the issue said necessary work in their home would not be done if the home improvement service did not exist.

Last year, the service carried out more than 6,600 handy person jobs – including nailing down carpet and securing doors. More than 2,600 people were helped with grant funding and welfare advice.


The county council will use part of a one-off £500,000 investment to investigate “new approaches” to delivering the service.



EAT ... HEAT ... ROOF ... and now a leaking one at that ?
" Lessons learnt " from closure of council care company



Lessons have been learnt over a council owned company which failed to be self-sustaining, council bosses have said after agreeing its closure.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet agreed on Tuesday to wind up Sensing Change, a wholly-owned company delivering care for deaf and blind people in the county.

Council chiefs said that those receiving care from the firm would not see a change in provision as it moved back in house. Staff meanwhile were seconded to Sensing Change, meaning they would just move back under the county council's umbrella.

The company, which was formed in 2011, will now be dissolved by Companies House by October.

Beccy Hopfensperger, Conservative cabinet member for adult care, said: "I would like to be really clear that this proposal is not about cutting the service, and there will be no impact on staff and those already receiving support. This support will not change.

Mrs Hopfensperger said it had become "increasingly clear" that the company could not be financially self-sustaining without the council's annual £984,000 subsidy, and opportunities for growth had not emerged.

"It's a very small market and really the only people they could work with are another local authority company," she said.

"Most local authorities have the same remit to grow their business as we would, so it's a very tight, competitive market in the local authorities so they really had nowhere to end up.

"We have learnt lessons but we really think it's best for the staff and service users that we bring it back in house, and we have learnt from that exercise."

Around 32 members of staff are employed there, who will be brought back in house.

The cabinet report said that around 270 people used the service at any one time, but there were 114,000 people in Suffolk who were deaf or hard of hearing and a further 3,000 sight impaired who could access the service.

Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group leader said: "I was surprised to learn there were no councillors on the board who would have been able to perhaps keep an eye on the progression."

The council's Labour group raised concerns over whether the level of specialism would remain to provide an effective service.
One in five councils face drastic spending cuts within months.

Cuts to local government funding mean many will be forced to act to stave off bankruptcy.



The deteriorating financial prospects for local government mean that within months nearly one in five councils in England may be forced to impose drastic spending controls to stave off bankruptcy, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils had little confidence that they would be able to deliver the already tough savings targets they had set themselves for this financial year, and would have to go back for extra cuts to meet their legal requirement to balance their budgets.

A further one in three councils surveyed said prospects were so bleak that within three years they would be unable to meet their statutory obligation to provide an adequate service in core areas such as adult social care, child protection and homelessness prevention.

Lord Porter, the LGA chairman and a Tory peer, said: “As this survey shows, if the government fails to adequately fund local government, there is a real risk to the future financial viability of some services and councils.”


The LGA, which holds its annual conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday, has called for urgent funding guarantees amid concerns that the government’s three-year spending review planned for the autumn will be postponed because of uncertainty caused by the Tory leadership contest and the looming October Brexit deadline.

Even if councils are given an emergency one-year “rollover” financial settlement for 2020-21, this will lock austerity into town hall budgets for a 10th successive year, raising fears that a further round of cuts and redundancies will critically undermine the quality and safety of day-to-day services.

Porter told MPs last month that vulnerable people would die as a result of social care cuts if the funding gap between resources and demand widened further, saying that “the first serious shock will be when a secretary of state has to stand up and explain to the public why those people died because the money was not available”.

He told the Commons housing, communities and local government committee: “I am not sure anybody who gets elected to parliament wants to be the person who stands on the newsstand and explains why people died because of fiscal policy. It is only money, at the end of the day. Why do we need to lose people because of money?”

Last year Tory-run Northamptonshire county council in effect declared bankruptcy and imposed a ban on non-essential spending. Its failure to make planned savings after years of cutbacks and chaotic management left it unable to fulfil its legal requirement to meet its spending obligations and balance its budget.

It reportedly stabilised its finances early this year after selling its headquarters and spending £60m of the proceeds to balance the books. However, it has since reported a £6m overspend on its adult social care budget, just three months into the new financial year.

Councils have already had proposed cuts to statutory services such as libraries and Sure Start centres challenged – and sometimes overturned – in the courts on the grounds that the cuts breach the legal obligation to provide an adequate level of service. More judicial review challenges are expected.

The shadow communities secretary, Andrew Gwynne, said community neglect was the legacy of a decade of municipal austerity. “Our councils keep our streets cleaner and safer, protect the most vulnerable in society and maintain our green spaces – but a decade of austerity has eroded these vital services away.”

The LGA estimates that between 2010 and 2016, local authorities will have lost 60p out of every £1 they received from central government. By next April the gap between council resources and demand will be £3bn, rising to £8bn by 2025, fuelled by wage inflation and the rising costs of adult and child social care.

The LGA survey was completed by 141 out of 339 LGA member councils between 28 March and 5 June.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Councils are a vital link to meet the needs of residents. That’s why we’re providing local authorities with access to £46.4bn this year – a real-terms increase – including extra funding to support some of our most vulnerable groups.”
MAJOR DISASTER WARNING AHEAD ... POSTED IN SEVERAL THREADS

Let councils charge higher taxes to pay for austerity, says LGA chair.

James Jamieson urges ministers to inject billions into adult social care.


Local authorities should be given the freedom to impose higher council taxes to help cope with the unprecedented funding crisis facing social care services after a near decade of austerity, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association has said.

James Jamieson urged ministers to inject billions of pounds into adult social care and give councils more control of local health services to protect elderly and disabled people and give them the support they needed. “It is a measure of a good society how well it treats it most vulnerable,” said the councillor.

Reflecting increasing concern over the impact of the reductions, he called for major extra investment in children’s social care, a reversal of cuts to Sure Start-style early-years family support services and a review of special educational needs services funding.

His comments reflect a growing cross-party consensus at local level that national government has little grasp how continuing austerity cuts are hurting local communities and putting people at risk. Last month, Jamieson’s Tory predecessor, Lord Porter, warned that vulnerable people would die because of social care cuts.

There is little confidence that the government will be in a position to deliver its promised three-year spending review this autumn, effectively imposing a further year of austerity on town halls and forcing them to plan for service cuts and staff redundancies they had hoped would be unnecessary.

The LGA warned earlier on Tuesday that the deteriorating outlook for council finances would see a fifth of authorities forced to impose drastic controls on spending this year to avoid insolvency, while a third of councils would struggle to deliver statutory services within three years.

Jamieson, in his inaugural speech at the LGA annual conference in Bournemouth, said the council tax referendum cap, introduced by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2012 and currently set at 2.99%, ought to be abolished. “Residents should be given the choice; if they want to pay more for extra services, why can’t they?”

He said that councils in England had lost 60p out of every £1 of central government funding since 2010, while the number of new child protection investigations had doubled, there had been a 56% increase in homelessness and the number of older people aged over 85 had increased by a third.

The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said in his speech to the LGA that he recognised councils’ uncertainty over future funding, adding: “It is right that we look at the challenges and opportunities you face, and the funding you are currently relying on, including for social care, when we consider what a sustainable settlement looks like for local government for the coming years.”

Meanwhile, a survey of council chiefs found nearly half expect that Brexit will damage their local economies by reducing exports and overseas investment. This would critically reduce council income from business rates at a time when they were already struggling to maintain the quality and breadth of core services.

PWC’s annual survey of council leaders, chief executives and finance directors revealed that more than half believed that some authorities would get into serious financial difficulty or fail to deliver core services at some point over the next year.

A PWC survey of 2,000 UK users of council services found that 67% were concerned about cuts on their community, up from 61% a year ago; 77% said they or their family had been impacted by cuts; and 51% opposed the need for cuts, up from 48% in 2018.

Councils must hold a referendum if they wish to raise council tax beyond the 2.99% limit. No local authority has taken up the option. In January, Northamptonshire county council was given special dispensation by ministers to raise council tax by an extra 2%, raising £6m, to aid its recovery from insolvency. Similar requests from other councils have been turned down.

Local authority directors of adult social care warned last week that the escalating financial crisis in social care had put tens of thousands of older and disabled people at risk of being denied basic support such as help with washing and dressing.



COUNCIL TAX TO RISE TO FUND SOCIAL CARE ?

FOR ALL LOWER EARNERS , FINANCIAL ARMAGEDDON JUST GOT NEARER !
Children's services and adult social care face cuts as £40 million more savings needed.


Council bosses are facing two months of work to identify how £40 million of cuts can be made - which will see its savings over the past decade soar past the £400 million mark.

A £71 million budget gap forecast for the next two years has left Norfolk County Council in need of finding £40m in the coming year, a figure agreed by its cabinet earlier this year.

And of this figure, £20 million is set to come from the service sectors including £9 million from adult social care, £4.5 million from children's services and £5 million from community and environmental services.

Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, said it was too early to say where these would be coming from, but insisted he could not picture a day when the council merely provides the statutory minimum level of services.

He said: "I am proud of what we deliver on our £1.4 billion budget and absolutely do not envisage a time where Norfolk County Council has to offer a statutory minimum.

"We are in utterly unprecedented times of uncertainty over what, if anything, we receive from central government and I find it quite astonishing that this is still up in the air.

"But I can not see the sort of proposals we are working towards being ones that lead to jobs being lost and services cut though - it is much more to do with how we deliver things. I am not sat here with a red pen drawing lines through things."

With the council having already made £364m of savings in the past decade, opposition leaders are less confident in this.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: "We've already seen hideous cuts and accountancy manoeuvres to disguise the ugly truth. Demand for key care services is still increasing, already children's and adults budgets consistently overspend.

"The prospects for future years is horrendous - we do question just how much Norfolk Tories care about the damage this is doing.

"They use language designed to cover the truth - these aren't 'savings' but deep and damaging cuts. They should be honest about it."

Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: "Councils have been bled dry after years of cuts and people are angry.

"In Norfolk this has hit the most vulnerable with very real threats, including children's centre closures, cuts to special needs education and to support for disabled people.

"It can't go on - we need new thinking at County Hall."

Early indications on how the council is looking to save the £40m is as follows:

- £9 million from adult social care budget

- £4,5 million from children's services budget

- £5 million from form community and environmental budget

- £0.5 million from strategy and governance

- £1 million from community services

- £10 million from system improvements and innovations

- £10 million savings from financial services

A decade of cuts

Pressure on the county council to make financial savings has been ever present in the past decade, with matters such as recession, credit crunches and austerity measures taking toll.

Since the beginning of the 2010/11 financial year, the council's funding from central government has been reduced by £204 million in total, leaving it in a position to either make cuts or source alternative forms of revenue.

In the next financial year, 2020/21, another key form of funding - its revenue support grant - is due to fall from £39 million to zero, adding to the financial strain.

Since the beginning of the decade, the council has made savings of £365 million which includes efficiency savings of £246 million.

In the past year alone, controversial measures used to make savings have include the closures of dozens of children's centres, changes to who qualifies for adult social care support and reductions in library staff.
83 posts