We’re certainly living in interesting times. With constitutional law being bent and stretched in so many different directions, it sometimes feels like the earth is shifting under everyone’s feet. It goes without saying, though, that those of us in the public sector are still hard at it. Schools are still functioning, and adult social care services carry on carrying on. It would be tempting to leave Brexit and its chaos to the politicians.
Of course it’s not as simple as that. Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer, recently announced a Spending Round for 2019, ahead of a more extensive Review due in 2020. His motives have inevitably been questioned – his Labour counterpart, John McDonnell, dismissed the whole thing as “grubby electioneering”. The chancellor claims that it’s nothing of the sort, that “a new decade of renewal” needs a new economic plan, and that we can’t let the uncertainty of Brexit distract from “delivering on the people’s priorities”.
In a spending round which focuses on the public sector, the chancellor has promised an overall spend on local authorities which, he says, will be, the highest since 2010. Councils will get £1.5 bn for adults’ and children’s services (although £0.5 bn of that is conditional on raising council tax for adult care).
This must surely be welcomed by the sector? The cross-party organisation, London Councils, reports that London boroughs are experiencing “acute pressures” across a number of services. These include the High Needs block of the Dedicated Schools Grant and adult social care. HM Treasury have said that the new funds will be split between adults’ and children’s services, with local authorities responsible for determining how it will be distributed.
The chancellor does acknowledge that this is an interim measure. The funds specified in this review, along with the existing £2.5d bn social care grants are designed to be “a solid foundation to protect the stability of the system next year”. The prime minister got a mention too, and is cited being committed to “a clear plan to fix social care”.
A long term funding plan is exactly what is needed, according to London Councils, so they may take some comfort from the chancellor’s speech. Other sector bodies have cautiously welcomed the spending review and the funding boost that comes with it, but maintain that what is missing is the longer-term stability so desperately needed by the sector.