Cabinet member Dave Shields writes:
Local readers will be very aware of the crisis facing Council-funded adult social care services. This is a result of continued government cutbacks in Council grants which look set to continue for the foreseeable future. We have to face this challenge and work to overcome it.
This means uncomfortable and unpopular decisions have sometimes to be taken - as with the future of Council-run care facilities such as Brownhill House. It is important, however, for the public to be fully informed about our proposed changes.
The Council currently manages a number of ‘reablement’ beds at Brownhill House which are wholly funded by the NHS. We are concerned that this excellent facility duplicates similar services provided by Solent Health NHS Trust and it makes sense to join them together under a single management structure. The NHS-funded beds at Brownhill House are not always fully utilised (with occupancy levels sometimes falling below 50%) and there are similar issues of under-occupancy at the RSH Brambles and Fanshawe wards. We believe that by combining these services and providing more out-of-hospital care in people's own homes we can relieve pressure on our local hospitals whilst saving almost £1 million a year. The savings mean that we can meet the increasing demand on services resulting from a 20% rise in the City's elderly population when money from central government is being cut back.
These proposals have been developed over the past year and extensive consultation has taken place with service users, residents and other key stakeholders in the NHS and voluntary sector. The vast majority of the 200 people who responded to the Council’s consultation agree with our shared vision for an integrated service. Local GPs and the medical and nursing staff at the RSH, Southampton General Hospitals and in the community are also fully behind the plans, which will be discussed at the Council’s Cabinet meeting later this month.
I can reassure readers that users of social services who are assessed as having a need for rehabilitation, reablement, respite care, home care or day care will continue to receive a high quality service, albeit provided differently than at present.
Cabinet member Dave Shields writes: Local readers will be very aware of the crisis facing Council-funded adult social care services. This is a result of continued government cutbacks in Council...
Leader of the Council, Simon Letts, writes:
When Labour took control of the council in 2012 we inherited some very glossy plans for the City, but little was happening on the ground. Our first job was to persuade the business community that Southampton was the place to invest in. We understood that only by renewing itself would the city be able to provide the jobs of the future for our people. We needed to make Southampton a place people wanted to visit and spend money in.
We showed our commitment to the creative industries (one of the growth areas in the economy during the recession) by completing the New Arts Complex on Guildhall Square. The restaurants and bars are already open, and the arts complex will open this year, starting with our hosting of the British Art Show in the newly-relocated John Hansard Gallery in October 2016.
We secured the funding for Watermark West Quay through hard negotiations with the Government. This will not only create an estimated 700 new jobs, but will also deliver a beautiful piece of public open space showing off our superb the city walls and linking the city centre back to the waterfront. This major new entertainment complex will open by the end of the year. Some big developments have either concluded or are in the last phases of development, for example the Admirals Quay development in Ocean Village, the Ordnance Survey site conversion to housing, and the huge Centenary Quay development in Woolston. These along with other sites like the old Meridian site, the fruit and veg market and the old City Depot site alongside the Itchen Bridge, will provide the homes local people need.
Even if you don’t need a home or a job all this is good news for the City as the extra business rates and council tax will allow us to keep services running despite a further 25% cut in our government grant this year. Southampton has an historic past and a fantastic future. We are the capital of the South, its premier city, and we march on.
Leader of the Council, Simon Letts, writes: When Labour took control of the council in 2012 we inherited some very glossy plans for the City, but little was happening on...
Labour in Southampton has worked hard since 2012 to balance the books - despite savage cuts, as Southampton now receives £84.7m less General funding than five years ago. Simultaneously, we have attracted businesses - and cut unemployment rates in half – and kept vital services running such as children’s safeguarding, adult health and social care, road maintenance and bin collections.
To bust a few myths: we could have refused to set a budget, and then central government would have stepped in and set one for us, with little regard for local priorities. To those who say that would have been better, I disagree, and believe that Labour councillors have ensured that whilst difficult cuts were made, we have listened to residents and tried to protect services that are ‘economically unimportant’ but socially vital.
As for reserves, whilst Hampshire County Council has hundreds of millions, we do not. We have used reserves,and will do so this year, but there is no money ‘for a rainy day’, the deluge arrived with the Con-Dem coalition in 2010.
Despite our efforts, we know the people of Southampton are being hit by Conservative policies. We face huge calls in adult social care, and George Osborne has proposed that local government can raise more funds to pay for this with an increased 2% council tax levy for Adult Social Care. In Southampton the number of over 65’s will increase 19% from 2014 by 2021, and vulnerable people need help. We will therefore introduce Osborne’s Social Care Tax to contribute towards some of these costs.
However, as this hits people’s pockets by c. £25 per year we will not, as we could, also increase Council Tax by 1.99%. We think many councils in Hampshire will, but thanks to careful stewardship, we can call on reserves this year to save further hardship to Southampton taxpayers.
Difficult decisions will continue to have to be made - and who knows what central government will impose next? - but Southampton Labour is fighting to balance the needs of the vulnerable with the overall population, and to ensure money stays in the hands of struggling families.
Labour in Southampton has worked hard since 2012 to balance the books - despite savage cuts, as Southampton now receives £84.7m less General funding than five years ago. Simultaneously, we have...