First Train to Liverpool

Ely Station with no a single other person about!

Ely Station 5:25am with not a single other person about!

A couple of Wednesdays ago I left home at an unnatural hour and caught the first train of the day from Ely Station at 5:30am to get to Liverpool in time for the annual TLAP Conference at Aintree Racecourse. I had intended to travel the day before but could not due to a Lakenheath Parish Council meeting I wanted to attend and I spoke about in my one of my last blogs.

Having got to Liverpool just in time to hear the conference opening words from Clenton Farquharson MBE who is Chairman of Healthwatch Birmingham and Co-Chairman of the National Co-Production Advisory Group and Sam Bennett who is the Chief Executive of the National TLAP programme, both of whom I sit on the National TLAP Board with, after which I settled down for the rest of the morning to hear the words of speakers at this important conference. TLAP stands for Think Local Act Personal, a nation programme board with many partner organisation promoting the personalisation of our Care Services and if you been kind enough to read this blog, you will know I sit on its Board representing the Local Government Association.

After lunch I co-chaired a workshop session called ‘Building strong inclusive communities. A Framework for Health and Wellbeing Boards’ where we talked about the new Framework for Building Community Capacity and how different Health and Wellbeing Boards are rising to the challenge it provides to put building the capacity of their communities at the heart of their thinking.

In the last Plenary of the day I took to the stage alongside. David Pearson, President of ADASS, Alex Fox of Shared Lives Plus, both of whom are fellow TLAP Board Members alongside Kathy Roberts from the Mental Health Providers Forum and Sherone Philips of the Nation Co-Production Advisory Group. The session was chaired by Richard Humphries of the Kings Fund who is one of this country’s leading thinkers on Health and Social Care. I was asked to speak briefly about the LGA First 100 days (of a new Government from May 2015) and what the LGA is asking for in respect of Adult Social Care and on behalf of Health and Wellbeing Boards across the Country. For the end of a long day it was heartening to see so many people remain for what was a very interesting Q&A session exploring the future of Social Care in a changing environment, relationships with Health and the cuts agenda that will be around for many years to come. Then it was back to the trains and the long day ended at 11:15 as I arrived home.

A bit of a do at the LGA

Last Wednesday evening I popped along from a meeting in London to the drinks reception at Local Government House for Sir Merrick Cockell, it’s Chairman’s, retirement.

The Conservative have narrowly lost control of the LGA and so the next Chairman will be the Labour’s David Sparks OBE. The Conservatives still have a vastly overwhelming majority of Councillors, being more than all the other parties put together, but in the strange LGA block vote system that decides these things Labour narrowly have the majority.

This means for the first time since I became a Councillor, the LGA will no longer have a Conservative Chairman. Some will ask does it matter and to some extent you have to judge does the LGA matter in answering that. Personally I think it is an effective voice for local government and as someone once said to me if it did not exist we would invent it. Equally to my mind Sir Merrick has been a very effective, hard working Chairman and has provided Local Government with a charming national voice and with the ‘Re-Wiring’ paper, a renewed sense of where we want to go and some bite to the lexicon. His and the LGA influence was in some ways summed up by the number of Westminster politicians in attendance despite having to leave promptly for a vote in the House, Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles MP gave a warm speech, Minister of State Brandon Lewis MP was there along with Labour’s shadow team of Hilary Benn MP and Andy Sawford MP amongst others. The challenge for the new Labour Chairman will be how he can engage with a Conservative Local Government team and hopefully will have to for the next parliament as well!

Next week’s LGA conference will see the launch of the LGA’s ‘first 100 days’ document for an incoming government and such is the way of these things, they have to be cross party, so it’s aimed at whichever party wins. Broadly speaking local government is one of this country’s success stories, it has absorbed the cuts, becoming simply the most efficient arm of the public service, which is in no small way due to having elected councillors to hold it to account and shape its direction. I can think of a few areas where such democratic representation would have a positive effect, not least the NHS, but I digress. Of course it must do even better in the years ahead, but I think it has earned the right be to masters of our own destiny more than ever before, and that self-determination will allow us to shape our organisations to continue to deliver the services people need at a reduced cost to the public purse and I suspect that will be the central plank of the document for launch next week. It will be interest to see.

Policy to Reality

On Monday I blogged about my Mum’s passing and how ‘far too close to home’, I saw the system of health and social care, policy, commissioning and providers work, in our case, rather well. But as the various systems kicked in I thought to myself you know what, this is precisely why we must get the policies, funding and the way we set up the system, right. This stuff does actually matter for those vital moments in our lives when we need the system to take good care of us.

Last Wednesday I attended the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board meeting in London and in amongst a packed agenda was a discussion on Better Health and Social Care integration. One of those think tank pieces put together before the next parliament to give the Westminster politicians food for thought as the return after the general election, about the policies they need to enact to hopefully improve the system rather than hinder it.

Geoff Alltimes and Richard Humphries from the King’s fund were in attendance to discuss with us the Barker Report, as it will be known after Kate Barker who is heading it up, as they go about the evidence gathering stage. Here is a link to a short video explaining the commission and its remit http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/audio-video/kate-barker-commission-future-health-and-social-care-England

The report certainly pitches a wide variety of ideas about the future funding of the NHS and what is the role of social care in amongst its mix. Amongst them is such headline grabbers as charging to see your GP or attend A&E alongside the less sensational but more fundamental about the notion of a free NHS and how it sits so uncomfortably with the financial assessment and charging for Social Care. It was quite bizarre as the NHS element of Mums’ care was delivered and you could ‘watch before your very eyes’ the money being spent and yet when it came time for a small element of social care to be planned, out came the forms for this assessment and who is going to pay and the charging mechanism. This is not a criticism of those who very involved as they handled it very well but for such a small element of Mum’s care suddenly the system changed and it was jarring.

At the Board meeting we also discussed the governance and accountability of the NHS and I made the point hat there are so many, many structures in the NHS with vast armies of friends, governors and structures to delivery such things that in reality does it really work or it just a maze where no one, including those who designed it, quite knows who is responsible for what and when it goes wrong across an array of services, well!!. Because in my experience whenever you ask a question of any aspect of the NHS someone seems to point at someone else, just look at the Francis report on ‘Mid Staffs’ Hospital.

In an earlier blog I explored this with new Directors of Adult Social Services, how in local government, Councillors are the first point of call for residents because they elect them. The line to Directors to respond, is one email not a vast system of accountability. In making my point I was stressing to both Geoff Alltimes and Richard Humphries how I saw the future of an NHS delivering services but local government being far more involved with elected representatives being the key local way in which the NHS is provided with accountability and governance. It will be interesting to see their final report and I’ll blog it when it’s published in the autumn.

#LGAConf13

Last week I and a couple of thousand other Councillors and officers decamped to Manchester Central for the Local Government Association’s Annual Conference.

For me it had an added dimension to previous years because the previous Thursday I was, to my surprise, elected to the Conservative Group Executive essentially a small group of Councillors who are elected to represent the Conservative side of the organisation and hopefully seek to represent our fellow Conservative Councillors and their thoughts, aims and aspirations. At the head of this blog you can see my manifesto/CV for the post which set out my thoughts and issues I want to try to influence.

During the course of the conference a number of colleagues sat down with me to discuss what they want me to achieve for the organisation going forward and were really very helpful as to how I might influence its thinking. Our first Executive meeting in on 18th July and I am looking forward to it.

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