THE AUTUMN STATEMENT 2016 – SOME GOOD NEWS, BUT A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT TOO

This is what I said in my role as London Councils’ executive member for housing:-

“Today’s announcement is an positive step in the right direction. London Councils has made clear there is a desperate need for thousands more homes, of a range of tenures, to be built.  This specific cash injection for affordable homes will allow the Mayor of London, boroughs and other partners to carry out and extend ambitious plans to properly tackle the capital’s housing crisis.

“London Councils will continue to make the case for boroughs to be given the tools they need to meet the huge challenges they face. Councils are pulling their weight by granting planning permission for tens of thousands of houses across a range of tenures each year. However, the completion rates for housing remain low, and ministers still need to work with boroughs, the GLA and developers to ensure permitted housing is built out in the city – and that the Government’s housing policy works for all Londoners.”

THE GOOD NEWS

  • London will receive £3.15 billion as its share of national affordable housing funding to deliver over 90,000 homes.
  • Devolution to London of the adult education budget, and giving London greater control over the delivery of employment support services for the hardest to help.
  • There will be continuing discussions with London on possible devolution of further powers.
  • Relaxation of restrictions on government grant to allow a wider range of housing-types.
  • The National Living Wage will increase from £7.20 to £7.50 in April next year although this fall well short of the London Living Wage which is currently £9.75
  • From April the Universal Credit taper rate reduces from 65% to 63% – but other welfare changes are untouched and will hit some families hard.
  • In the private rental market an end to letting agents being able to charge unregulated fees to tenants – in future Landlords will pay

…..AND THE BAD

  • No extra money for the NHS – the only mention is a repeat of the £10B announced last year and not a word about Adult Social Care –In London alone the cumulative funding shortfall for adult social care will be at least £800 million by the end of this Parliament – this means that the NHS and Local Government face a very difficult time in the coming months

 Steve Bullock

23 November 2016

My South London Press column, 18/11/2016

Those of us who grew up in the 60s remember the letters STP in white on a red background from advertising on racing cars – the mystery was we saw the adverts but never actually saw the product itself. In the last few months those same letters have re-emerged but this time they refer to Sustainability and Transformation Plans for the NHS. But what those plans mean is almost as mysterious as the STP of old (it was a petrol additive in case you were wondering!).

As I write, most of the 44 STPs haven’t even been published but at least the plan covering South East London is available – along with other Council leaders from this area I insisted that it be made public as soon as possible and you will be able to find it by visiting our web site.

The background to the making of these plans is the huge financial pressures facing not only the NHS but Councils that provide Social Care too. We are living longer, which is great news, but it also means that there are more of us needing medical attention and care in later life. This would have been a challenge in any circumstances but the impact of the Government’s austerity programme has significantly reduced the resources available to meet that rising demand.

In Lewisham we remember only too well the ham fisted attempt to run down A&E and Maternity services at Lewisham Hospital which we halted after a great public campaign and a legal challenge to the Secretary of State. One of the mistakes that Government made then was to try and impose a “top down” solution. It was always accepted that there might need to be some changes but these needed to be based on local knowledge and be subject to thorough local discussion. Instead they were worked up by expensive consultancies that offered neither of those things.

If the publication of the STPs is the beginning of a process where everyone who has an interest and a contribution to make is given an opportunity to engage we might see some positive outcomes. It is very early days and we will all need to look closely at what is in these plans and what they might means for our communities. Some of the headlines make sense – I think we all know that if we can stop folk becoming ill in the first place it is better for all concerned. Equally getting Health services and Council services working together seamlessly can only be a good thing.

However it will be the detail of how these things are achieved that really matters. If this is just a way to make cuts in order to balance the books many of us will feel very let down. To enable our population to become healthier, which will potentially save money in the long run, the resources must be invested now to change the way things work. No amount of effort locally to improve things will make a difference if the Government don’t face up to the reality that they are currently failing to fund both Health Care and Social Care adequately. The Chancellor will be making his Autumn Statement soon – it’s his chance to show that he recognises the problem and is willing to address it – let see if he takes that chance!