The 26% cuts over 4 years to the grants from central to local government announced in last week’s CSR will burn a significant hole in the local public purse, and challenge even the most innovative and well-prepared local authorities to look again at how they can provide consistently ‘more for less’ between now and 2015.
The removal of ringfencing, the development of community budgets and the reduction of targets will be welcomed by many councils, as this will offer the freedom and flexibility they need to bring agendas together internally and externally to produce improved outcomes while reducing spend.
But will they take advantage of these new opportunities?
Age UK has recently been calling for a new cross-council approach to ageing, building the needs of older people into all departmental plans and factoring demographic change into all council budgets.
Too often ageing as an issue gets passed to the adult social care department. However, an Audit Commission report revealed that 85% of people over 65 don’t use council care services, but they do use – and often rely on – the majority of general council services and many use other services such as transport, leisure, and housing.
With growing numbers of older people in all but four of the local authorities in England, surely now is the right time to take a fresh look at ageing as a cross-cutting priority and bring together strategic thinking and budgetary planning at the highest levels to ensure reform of any or all public services has our ageing population in mind.