Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 24th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 3:59 pm, 24th April 2019

I am sorry—I will not, because I do not have very much time, and I have a lot to get through.

We cannot artificially separate these two pots of funding. Instead, we must link them together more holistically. The NHS long-term plan includes some welcome focuses on carers—perhaps the hon. Lady agrees they are helpful—among which I would highlight the use of innovative technology, such as smart home technology, that can, for example, monitor when a dementia sufferer does simple things such as turn on the kettle or switch on a light, and which can be linked to an app to enable someone such as a relative—like myself, for example—to see what their loved one is doing at any given time. It is great that some utility companies are developing apps that can work in this space. I welcome that. We have to get behind those efforts to join up care.

I want to highlight another aspect of the carer spectrum. Young carers are often completely hidden from view, yet they do a fantastic job supporting their loved ones, and it often has a knock-on impact on their schooling and mental health—40% of young carers suffer from mental health problems. My final point about carers is the importance of companies and employers having a proper strategy for people juggling work and care. Most carers work, or try to work—often they have to leave work—and we should consider how we can better support them to provide that care. It is great to see the Minister for Care in her place. I know she is engaged in the detail of these issues.

I turn now to my constituency and my council, Worcestershire County Council. Of course, it faces pressures, like councils up and down the country, but I applaud it for its work in managing these pressures. In meetings with me it has called for the consultation on the fairer funding review to be brought forward quickly so that it can have more certainty to plan ahead. It needs certainty by October to plan for future savings it will need to make. It has had to find savings of £22.9 million already. A positive development in our area, however, has been the work across councils to bring forward the 75% business rates retention pilot, which has resulted in up to £4.9 million more to spend on social care. This has relieved the pressures considerably. Given that the county council spends 41.8% of its net budget on adult social care, and that we have a rising population of people demanding social care, this is really important and very welcome, but it has to be a sustainable settlement that the council can build and plan on.

I turn now to the second half of the equation—it is a shame this is sometimes neglected by Opposition Members. The shadow Secretary of State talked about growing the pie. This is critical. As well as looking at where the money comes from, we as Conservatives try to think about how we can generate more money—more pie—in our local areas. For me, at the heart of that is creating thriving local areas and town centres where people want to move to and businesses want to invest, which in turn generates more revenue and more business rates and a virtuous circle for our local economy.

That is at the heart of our “Unlock Redditch” strategy. My Conservative colleagues have had one year in office in Redditch town hall. They took control this time last year, after eight years of Labour, when there was no positive vision for the future. They have taken control and set out how they will build more social housing and help to empower businesses and the local community to build a thriving town we can all be proud of. It is a positive aspiration for our future and I am completely behind the strategy. It is about having a mission and a plan for the future. That is what we have in Redditch. Let me take this opportunity to say to anyone in Redditch who may be watching the debate, “It is vital that you go out and vote Conservative in the local elections.” If people vote Conservative, we can retain control of our town hall and continue the effective and careful management that has enabled our team to deliver services in the face of spending pressures and pressures on budgets. Similarly, Worcestershire County Council, in the face of some difficult decisions, has maintained essential services such as libraries and social care.

Let us put aside the hysterical political polemic that we sometimes hear from the Opposition Benches, and focus on working together. We have seen some excellent examples of that, so let us focus on it now, and grasp the opportunity to provide a great social care system in our country.