Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement made several references to ‘JAMs’, or families who are ‘just about managing’, but there are still doubts about the government’s commitment to helping them. In fact, 70% of councils believe that communities are slipping down Westminster’s priorities list, according to November’s LocalGov survey.
A concern for councils is the absence of any measures to address the social care funding crisis. Local Government Association Chair Lord Porter called on the government to take urgent action to assist councils in protecting services for elderly and vulnerable people, while Cllr Izzi Seccombe of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board warned that “councils and the NHS continue to be pushed to the financial brink.”
Meanwhile, Ofsted Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw has stated that failing schools and lower achievement levels in the North and Midlands than in the South are fuelling alienation and frustration.
These concerns highlight how important it is to councils that communities continue to look after their most vulnerable members. But questions remain over how both central and local government can succeed in doing so during this period of austerity.
70% of local authorities are already using the Social Value Act – which requires public service commissioners to consider the wider social benefit of anything they procure – to evaluate how they’re impacting their communities. However, just 28% say it is well-embedded in their local authority.
While it’s clear that central government must remain committed to supporting communities and protecting front-line funding, the reality may be that councils have to make the most of every penny of their purchasing power. That means ensuring their cash flow is stable; that service-users who can pay, do pay; and that procurement teams secure real added value from their providers.
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