Lancashire County Council Budget Cuts

As leader of Rossendale Borough Council I have written to Conservative controlled Lancashire County Council to express my concern about their proposed budget cuts. I acknowledge the pressures they are facing because of the unfair and damaging policies of the Tory government, we are also facing challenges in Rossendale, but savings should not be made at the expense of the health and wellbeing of our residents.

“The specific proposals I am most concerned about are:

SC610 – Lancashire Wellbeing Service. This service is well used and well respected in Rossendale.  The Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, the Police and local GPs all use the service to refer in vulnerable adults.  Our Transforming Lives Panel provides a much needed multi agency case management service, and uses the Wellbeing Service as a key referral pathway for people who are vulnerable, with a range of lower level complex needs.  This is a major part of our prevention and early intervention work, which is designed to spot and tackle issues early in order to prevent them escalating.  This preventative work fits with the Police, the NHS, Public Health and Social Care policies in terms of supporting people early to prevent cases becoming more serious and therefore having a bigger impact on local communities and service budgets.

To stop this service at a time when it is becoming embedded in the way we deal with a growing number of cases seems counter intuitive, and the pressure it will ultimately cause in Social Care, Health and Police budgets would be significantly more than the cost of the prevention work.

In Rossendale we have been working with the CCG, Public Health and others to look at ways we can join up a number of referral services and funding streams to get the best outcome for our residents. We see the Wellbeing Services being part of this solution. We would welcome the opportunity to continue these discussions before any decision is made about the future of this service.

  • SC611 – Home Improvement Services

The Home Improvement Services and handy person services delivered in Rossendale by Mosscare St Vincent’s provide a valuable and necessary service which build confidence and resilience and enable people to remain independent in their own homes for longer.  This is a key priority for LCC and the NHS.  Without the LCC contract the organisation could be in danger of folding and this work would cease.  This would have a detrimental impact on vulnerable people in the Borough, and with an aging population profile both here and across the County this has to be a real concern.  The potential additional pressure on the NHS and LCC Social Care would far outweigh the £880,000 saving being proposed and appears to be a false economy.

The proposal implies that the funding gap could be plugged through District DFG funding.  Whilst we want to be as flexible as possible with our DFG and would be happy to look at this, we are also bound be national guidance and policy on the spending of DFG.  We would need this national and local (through the Better Care Fund steering group, the DFG Board and the Health and Well Being Board) policy and guidance to be changed in order to give us the freedom to use our DFG allocation in this way.

We would therefore urge you not to make a decision on this proposal until further work had been carried out by your officers to ascertain whether it would be possible to fund this work in a different way.

We are also concerned about the reduction in Welfare Rights Advice outlined in Proposal SC608, particularly at a time when concerns are being raised locally and nationally about the impact of Universal Credit and increases in the use of food banks and rising child poverty.

The £2.175m proposed saving from Health Improvement Services outlined is Proposal SC609 is also a concern, particularly the potential reduction in access to rehabilitation services.  We would want to know what specific impact this may have on Rossendale residents before any access to service is removed.

There are also a number of proposals in the document entitled Service Challenge Savings (Consultation not required) which we feel may have a detrimental impact if the cumulative impact of all the proposals are considered.  We would urge you to carry out some urgent work to weigh up the cumulative impact before any decisions are made.  By looking at this cumulative impact it may mean that some of the proposals will need to have formal consultation in order for your Councillors to pay due regard to their equality duty as vulnerable older and potentially disabled residents will be affected.  The specific proposals we are concerned about are SC124 – Children’s Social Care (reduction in Family Support Workers) and SC501 – Adult Social Care Community – Older People/Physical Disability (reducing number of admissions to residential care).

As already stated, we do understand the pressure that the County is under, and we know that you will need to present a balanced budget to Council.  We also understand that if your Members reject any of these proposals then other alternatives will have to be found.  We have therefore focused our attention on those proposals which we feel will have the biggest negative impact, not only on our residents (our primary priority) but also on the whole system of public service provision and particularly health and social care.

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