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

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Cost of outside legal advice doubles at 42 councils.

A doubling of spending on outside legal advice by more than 40 local councils has been labelled "ridiculous" by people fighting funding cuts.

Figures from 270 of the 408 councils asked by the BBC showed £322m was spent last year on in-house legal teams and £142m on external legal services.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils often hired outside help to complement in-house lawyers.

But anti-cuts campaigners say the money should be spent on services.

Linda Burnip, from Disabled People Against Cuts, said the amount councils were spending on legal advice was "pretty staggering".

"The more they spend on legal costs the less they have to spend on services," she said.

"People are losing free bus passes, being charged for blue badges and housing is becoming a major issue for a lot of disabled people because there is not enough housing that is accessible.

"I think people experiencing cuts find it difficult to understand why so much money is going on legal advice."

'Unpredictable' costs

The BBC asked all councils in the UK for internal and external legal spending figures for the past five years.

Of the 270 councils that provided full details, about a third spent more on external legal advice in 2018-19 than in any of the previous four years.

For some councils, rising legal costs reflected involvement in major infrastructure projects.

South Northamptonshire, for example, has seen its external legal spending rise 233% from £7,877 to £26,302 in the past five years.

This had been partly caused, said a spokesman, by its preparations for the new HS2 high-speed railway between the West Midlands and London, and the development of its Local Plan.

"Some of this can be predicted and some not," he added. "The type and amount of legal advice required in any particular year will depend on the issues that the council is dealing with."

Big spenders


Cornwall Council's external legal spending has risen 147% in five years, from £250,757 to £621,475. The BBC asked the council for an explanation for the rise. The council has declined to answer

Derbyshire County Council's external spending rose from £831,905 five years ago to £2,052,424 in 2018-19. The council said the biggest area of increases had been in children's services, schools and adult social care

Devon County Council reported an external spend increase from £962,721 in 2014-15 to £1,548,363 last year. Two thirds of the spending went on children's services with an increasing amount being spent on the legal costs of partnerships with other organisations

Birmingham City Council spent £2m on outside legal advice last year. The amount spent on personal injury and negligence claims went up from £24,231 in 2015-16 to £131,285 last year

Some of the largest authorities, such as Lancashire County Council and Essex County Council, refused to provide details of their spending, however Essex has increased its legal team from to 33 members of staff in 2008 to 53 a decade later.

Analysis of spending data revealed Essex County Council spent more than £7m with a single law firm - Slaughter and May - in 2018-19.

The council would not give details of what the spending was used for, claiming "the cost of external legal advice is commercially sensitive and frequently confidential".

A spokeswoman for the Conservative-controlled authority said it was "currently involved in significant and complex litigation" while also needing legal support in "all aspects" of its work.

"In all cases, the council will carefully consider the most efficient and effective way of doing this which may involve using its in-house legal service, or engaging external support," she said.

Labour group leader Ivan Henderson said he was "really puzzled and concerned" by the council's refusal to state the amount it spent on in-house lawyers or what the fees discovered by the BBC related to.

"Council taxpayers have a right to know what their money is being used for," he said.

The council recently stepped back from proposals to shut 25 of its 74 libraries. It is now seeking expressions of interest from voluntary groups.

Andy Abbott, from campaign group Save Our Libraries, said: "It does seem fairly extraordinary to be spending something like £7m on one legal company.

"It just seems ridiculous when you think about it. This is the irony of what is going on when you've got austerity.

"You've got a council abandoning their responsibilities to run essential public services and then what happens, because they are not providing those services, they get themselves on the end of legal cases which end up costing far more money.

A spokesman for the LGA said nearly half of councils it surveyed reported "significant recruitment and retention issues when it comes to appointing in-house lawyers".

These difficulties had meant some councils were having to take on locum lawyers or outsource work to external legal firms.

Deborah Evans, chief executive of Lawyers in Local Government, said rising council legal costs were down to recruitment issues in the public sector, major redevelopment projects that needed expert advice and government funding cuts.

She said many councils "really cut back" on the number of lawyers they employed.

"Lawyers are essential to the functioning of a local authority," Ms Evans said. "If there are not sufficient lawyers in house to deal with the work that comes in they then have to look to external firms to plug the gap."

She said councils faced challenges in restructuring services following government funding cuts.

"When a local authority is considering cutbacks, restructuring or changing the way it provides services it needs to get that very experienced external legal advice."
Lancashire grandmother " Had to sleep on mattress in lounge " for 10 years.

A mum-of-three who also cared for her two grandchildren slept on a mattress in their living room for more than 10 years because of council failures.


The woman was told her three-bedroom terraced house would be extended by Lancashire County Council as part of her grandchildren's Care Order in 2005.

It took the council until 2011 to agree a budget and escalating costs meant the plans were eventually totally scrapped.

The Local Government Ombudsman ordered the council to pay her compensation.

The council apologised and said it would pay her £24,000 to reflect the "avoidable distress" she and her family suffered.

" Lack of privacy "

The Ombudsman found both the woman and her daughter had to sleep on mattresses and the whole family lived in "significantly overcrowded" conditions.

Plans were drawn up in 2007 to add an extra bedroom and shower room, and to extend the downstairs kitchen and dining area and utility room.

But the council took four years to agree a budget for the work.

By 2016 the proposed costs had increased by £50,000 and the council told her the extension would no longer be built.


She complained to the Ombudsman, whose investigation found the council delayed getting an agreement for the extension, and reneged on its agreement to build it once the costs had escalated.

The investigation also found the council delayed deciding whether to provide the family with a people-carrier type vehicle in response to the court order. It eventually paid for a vehicle in 2016.

Ombudsman Michael King said: "Lancashire County Council agreed to extend the woman's property as part of a care order, which was made to promote the welfare of her two vulnerable grandchildren. The council failing to comply with the order is extremely serious, and it could have put the children's placement at risk.

"Throughout the period five children have grown up and become young adults - because of the overcrowding, the whole family has struggled with a lack of privacy and emotional development.

"The extension would have significantly improved their living conditions had it been built as agreed.

"While the remedy we have recommended cannot make up for the long-term distress of living in such overcrowded conditions, I hope it can go some way to providing for a stable future for the family."

Lancashire County Council said: "We have fully apologised to the person involved, and we are very sorry for the distress our failings have caused.

"The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has identified a number of actions and we've drawn up a plan to address all the shortcomings that were outlined in the report."
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Local government will face £25bn funding gap by 2025.


The report by the TUC and the New Economics Foundation has found that most councils will be left worse off by funding reforms and that a No-deal Brexit could shrink council resources under new funding rules and increase spending demands.

The reforms are cutting central government grants to councils to almost zero – with just a few ringfenced grants that will account for less than 9% of local authority expenditure.

Councils will instead keep a higher proportion of the business rates they collect.

The report identifies major problems with the funding reforms, including greater exposure of council funding to the economic harm expected from a no-deal Brexit.

In 2010, around half of local government funding came from central government. By 2024/25 this will have been cut to zero, with the exception of a very small amount of ring-fenced funding.

The central government grant is being partially replaced by allowing councils to retain business rate revenue. However, councils will be left with substantially less funding overall compared to the resources they had before the cuts began in 2010.

The reforms will favour councils where future business growth is strongest, as their business rate revenue will grow. But areas that experience economic decline will suffer significant losses.

While local government income between now and 2024/25 will remain essentially flat in real terms, the funding gap will continue to grow. This is because demand on local government services will increase due to population growth and people living further into old age.

As a result of this demand growth, most local authorities are likely to experience a widening funding gap. They will only avoid it if they experience particularly fast business rates growth, which will be a much greater challenge for the poorest areas.

Poorer areas are also at greater risk of larger shortfalls because the new funding system is less responsive than the previous central government grants to higher levels of demand that are typical in communities with greatest economic deprivation.

Councils will face these pressures in addition to the funding gaps left by a decade of austerity. The analysis by NEF estimates an overall funding gap of £25.4bn for local authorities relative to the level of services they were able to provide in 2010.

The analysis assumes that the UK avoids a no-deal departure from the EU and does not suffer the disruption to business and recession that the Bank of England has suggested would follow.

However, the TUC and NEF warn that a no-deal Brexit could lead to an even larger funding gap, and even greater pressure on vital neighbourhood services.

The disruption expected to businesses could reduce business rate revenue, leaving local authorities with less income, alongside higher demands to meet from the social and economic costs of recession.

And a no-deal Brexit could also mean that councils are faced with rising demand from an influx of UK nationals who currently reside in other EU countries but could be compelled to return to the UK by loss of citizens’ rights.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said :

“This government’s changes to how councils are funded leaves a colossal hole in local budgets. And it’s the poorest communities that will face the biggest shortfalls.

“We need a local government funding system that helps rebuild local services and closes the funding gap between poorer and richer areas.

“Any government that cared about local services would rule out a no-deal Brexit. These funding reforms leave councils far more vulnerable to the economic damage that would be caused by crashing out of the EU without a deal. And that will mean bigger funding gaps for services that families rely on like social care, youth services and children’s centres.”
Notts council’s " Despair " at social care agency spend.


Senior Labour and Conservative figures have both criticised what they called excessive costs of agency workers.

It comes after Nottinghamshire County Council’s children’s social care budget went over budget by £8.5 million, caused in part by a sharp rise in the number of children who had to be taken into care in recent months.

On average, it costs about £60,000 a year for the council to look after a child in care.

Almost 100 more children had to be taken into care last year compared with the year before – and there are now twice as many children in care than there were a decade ago.

It is not a Nottinghamshire-specific problem.

One estimate stated 91 per cent of councils had overspent on children’s social care in the last financial year.

A leading Conservative figure called for price caps on agencies for how much they can charge, which he said had been trialled successfully in the NHS.

A senior Labour councillor said austerity had been the primary driver for the significant rises in children in care being seen in Notts and almost all other areas.

A report discussed today shows that neglect and abuse are by far the most common reasons for children being taken into care.

It also shows Nottinghamshire has a slightly lower rate of agency staff working as social workers – the Department for Education says the county has a 14 per cent rate, compared with a national rate of 15.4 per cent.

Councillor John Peck, Labour member for Sherwood Forest and a former headteacher, speaking in a meeting about the overspend, he said: “We’ve had 10 years of austerity.

“The chronic underfunding of early intervention, and the changes to the benefit system, all these things are adding together.

“It’s impacting in Nottinghamshire and across the country.

“There’s now no slack to take money from here and put it there, because it’s all gone. All the money’s gone.

“What really depresses me is the fact these issues have been around for years and the private sector has been making huge amounts of money.”

Coun Philip Owen, chairman of the council’s children’s committee, Tory member for Nuthall and Kimberley, told the committee: “I too am in despair at the cost of fostering agencies and social worker agencies, but we can’t manage without them.”

The former teacher said: “A lot of the firms which are running these agencies are not just in that business, they are huge conglomerates that are making a lot of money.”
In Surrey, children’s social services are improving slowly. Months ago I read a article I found online that still particularly scares me. But there is hope. Disability cuts will hurt ordinary people in Britain the most like my son. Most of my fears revolve around him being denied access to assessments and adaptive equipment he needs.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.bbc. ... n-48105787. This is a recent article I found one day. If I could do so without acting biased, I would apply for a job in social services. We could start a campaign or petition. That might help?
We could start a campaign or petition. That might help?


Petition number xxx ... ?

There have , literally , been dozens over the past decade.
Council tax hike and nearly £16 million cuts on cards as Norfolk County Council readies budget.

People in Norfolk look likely to see the share of council tax they pay to the county council go up by nearly 4pc next year - at a time when millions more cuts will be made.



Norfolk County Council revealed today it is looking at a further £15.8m of savings in 2020/21, on top of £31.1m of savings already agreed.

Council leaders, unveiling their budget plans ahead of consultation, said they were taking "prudent measures" to meet pressures and balance the books.

But taxpayers will have to shoulder some of that, with County Hall's budgeting predicated on a 3.99pc council tax increase.

That includes a 2pc precept specifically for adult social care, which the government recently gave the green light for.

A 3.99pc increase would see the county council's annual share of a band D bills rise by £54.27, to an £1,416.51.

Despite this month's announcement by the chancellor of extra government cash, the council says that one-off money does not plug the gap or allow longer-term planning.

Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said: "While I welcome additional government money - including a predicted £17 million grant for children's and adults social care - it's still not enough to meet our spending needs.

"After nearly a decade of making savings, we still face rising demand for services and continued uncertainty over future funding. That's why I'm proposing a series of prudent measures to balance the books."

Proposed new savings or increased income, in each department for 2020/21 includes:

- Adult social services: £7.2m - including saving £3.75m by increasing reablement, which helps people regain independence after being in hospital

- Children's services: £3.8m - including saving £3.5m by commissioning new care for children, with better outcomes and lower costs

- Community and environmental services: £1.9m - including saving £250,000 by renegotiating highways contracts

- Strategy and governance department: £500,000 - including saving £320,000 through income generation and vacancy management

- Finance and commercial services and finance general: £800,000 - including raising an extra £500,000 from organisational change budgets

- Business transformation: £1.6 through making the council's processes more modern, efficient and business-like But it comes on top of £31.1m of savings already agreed for next year, including £17.3m form adult social services and £3.5m from children's services.

And savings for this year have not all been made, with overspends in adult social care and children's services.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: "Using words like transformation, investment and developing proposals are an attempt at a cloak of invisibility to distract from the awful truth.

"The last time we heard those words the closure of children's centres soon followed. Transformation spells and cloaks of invisibility are a fiction straight out of Harry Potter.

"The reality is a much darker and more sombre prospect for those who need support. This is a further appalling lack of honesty and transparency. Every family in Norfolk will be paying an extra £1 a week for £1m a week fewer services next year.

"We have seen the callous increases and treatment meted out by this Conservative council towards disabled people this year. No sign of relief for the hardship being inflicted on them, just the prospect of more and worse."

And Dr Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "These are just fantasy figures. Even after the chancellor has emptied his piggy bank, the Conservatives are saying they will cut spending on services for children and on vulnerable adults in Norfolk by almost £50m. I don't believe it can be done.

"They are relying on vague plans to transform services but they have tried that and all that happens is that the council racks up massive over-spends and people in need of support see their services cut.

"Why should we believe it will be any different this time? The council - and the government - must face facts and fund vital services properly, because if they don't it is the people most in need who will suffer most."

Consultation will take place over the autumn, before the government confirms the council's funding in December and the full council takes a final decision to set a budget in February.

The council has budgeted to save £395m since 2011/12, in which time cash from the government has reduced by £220m and cost pressures have risen by £440m.

Cabinet will consider the budget proposals when it meets at 10am on Monday, October 7.

- The EDP will be hosting a Facebook Live on Norfolk County Council's budget planning at 1pm on Monday. We will be joined by Andrew Jamieson, the cabinet member for finance and Simon George, director of finance and commercial services.
Elderly people having to" Fend for themselves " as 40,000 fewer pensioners receive care despite rising demand.



Elderly people are being left to “fend for themselves”, a charity has warned, as 40,000 fewer pensioners are receiving council care despite rising demand.

Figures released by NHS Digital yesterday [TUES] reveal that the number of people receiving long-term care has fallen each year - from from 872,520 in 2015-16 to 841,850 in 2018-19.

Statisticians say that this has mainly been driven by a fall in care for those aged 65 and over, down 39,060 to 548,435.

This comes amid an ever-deepening social care crisis. This summer, Age UK warned that a record number of over 65s are not getting the care they need as increasing numbers are “at far greater risk of not eating enough and of falling and hurting themselves”. The charity warned that the care system was on the brink of “collapse”.

However in response to the latest NHS Digital figures, elderly care charities said that this problem would only get worse.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “The fact that the numbers of older people are increasing but 40,000 fewer are receiving long term care means that the system is becoming even meaner and leaving more in need to fend for themselves.

“This is cause for very serious concern: how do they cope, especially if they lack family and friends nearby to help, which is by no means uncommon?”

“We know that for some people, obtaining care in the first place in some areas is near impossible. Indeed there are genuine worries that as we look toward next year we are seeing the prospect of total system collapse in the worst affected areas.

“Meanwhile too many older people are living with unmet care needs, a figure that continues to grow.”


Researchers found that local authorities received 1.9 million requests for adult social care support during 2018-19 - the equivalent of 5,245 requests for support received per day. This marks an increase of 3.8% since 2017-18 (when it was 1.8 million).

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “It is hugely concerning that despite growing demand, fewer older people are getting access to care.

“We know councils are under pressure to balance their books and limit what they provide, and the impact is that many vulnerable older people are left struggling with basic tasks like washing, dressing and preparing meals.

“In such a tight financial environment for local authorities, it is essential that there are clear, consistent processes in place for people to challenge decisions about accessing care.”

Dr Alison Giles, associate director, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Too many people in later life don’t get the care they need. It is unacceptable that so many people are being left behind.

“Demand is growing and local government resources are stretched, so right now only people with the highest levels of need get help. The risk is that those with less serious conditions miss out on care because of lack of investment, leading them to need much greater and potentially more costly support in the long run.

“We need national government to find a sustainable funding solution for social care. But we also need to reduce demand by investing in prevention. Disability, frailty and some forms of dementia can be prevented or delayed, so we must put more resources and effort into helping people to stay healthy and independent for as long as possible.

A poll of 68,745 people receiving social care as part of the package found that almost two-thirds (64.3%) were very or extremely satisfied with the care and support they received, while 2% were very or extremely dissatisfied.

Of those in residential care homes, 58.5% said they had as much social contact as they wanted with people they liked.

But those in the community were less likely to say this (41.9%), and they also had the highest levels of feeling socially isolated (7.3%).

For those with little social contact who felt isolated, 36.7% said they were extremely anxious or depressed.

In response to the new NHS figures, Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said: "The Government's proposals on the future of adult social care brought forward in the Queen's Speech need to be substantive and must be brought forward as soon as possible."



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Councils spend MORE on social care - but are giving fewer elderly people help despite being bombarded with requests.

A burgeoning social care crisis is sparking some 5,245 pleas for assistance a day.

That's an extra 195 requests a day compared with the year before.

The Government promised a social care overhaul in the Queen's Speech, without offering any deta
il.


New figures from NHS Digital reveal around 39,000 fewer elderly people are getting long term care from local councils than three years ago, down to about 548,500 - amid fears that cash-strapped authorities are taking a harder line in care.


https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/pensi ... eople.html
82 posts