We have received representations from many organisations, including local authorities, health authorities, trade unions, voluntary organisations, professional bodies and others about the level of resources available for health and personal social services. Each authority has to decide how to match its spending programme to the resources at its disposal. We have made it clear that direct patient services and personal social services for the old and frail should be protected as far as possible.
Does the Minister accept that the reductions in public expenditure, particularly in such services as home helps and meals on wheels, and the discontinuation of the electricity discount, are likely to place an increasing number of elderly people at risk in the coming winter?
We have asked local authorities to do their utmost to make the necessary savings in ways that will protect services to patients and vulnerable groups. Some local authorities have achieved the targets that we have set without cutting social services.
Is my hon. Friend aware that some area health authorities are closing geriatric wards or geriatric hospitals because they regard them as a "soft touch", and that there is no compensating provision of facilities through county social services?
We have protected health authorities as far as possible from the economic difficulties which we have inherited. We have asked them to adopt the same criterion as the local social services when they make decisions about services for patients.
We have defended the amount of money available for joint funding in an effort to overcome some of the problems about the division of responsibilities between the health authorities and the personal social services.
Perhaps the hon. Lady will just listen. What does my hon. Friend think of Haringey, which has decided to cut down on personal social services so as to sustain the propaganda broadsheet it put out to ratepayers last month?
The right hon. Gentleman should take note of what the director
of social services in Newcastle has said. He asked people not to over-react and he said that there were extravagances, waste and some incorrect priorities in our services. He said that the:
social services can save money without making vast inroads into existing services.
Is the Minister satisfied that there are no examples of local authorities which will not be able to meet their statutory obligations in social services, particularly in relation to the elderly, without increasing the rates, because of the implications of the rate support grant?