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Tough Times, good decisions – the leadership role in adults services LG Group

Main speakers: Councillor David Rogers (Lib Dem), Councillor Dr Gareth Barnard (Conservative) and Councillor Linda Thomas (Labour)
At this afternoon’s lively and engaging policy session, Councillor David Rogers, Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board introduced the key benefits of the LGA regional networks for lead members. He stressed the advantage of sharing knowledge and experience at a sub-national level. Councillor Rogers reminded delegates that lead member expertise helped shape the LGA’s lobbying work with central government.

Councillor Rogers moved on to quickly identify the major challenges facing lead members in adult services. Personalisation, money, innovative partnership working and the re-emergence of public health were the dominant concerns. Leadership was vital in providing direction on the ‘personalisation’ issue to ensure the best possible outcomes for residents. He also suggested that the Dilnot Commission’s report should allow the sector to make the case for reform of adult social care and that this must be articulated across councils, with colleagues and with local MPs.

The case for innovative partnership working was reiterated by Councillor Dr. Gareth Barnard who suggested that demographic change and emphasis on prevention rather than spending more on critical intervention were also crucial challenges. Councillor Barnard believed councils needed to understand the wellbeing agenda and the role that services such as planning and transport can play in the delivery of this agenda. He concluded that innovation must be brought into the commissioning process and that councillors must question what they actually want to do and commission services accordingly. Councillor Barnard suggested the acid test was to question whether the services would be sufficient for family and friends and if not, these services shouldn’t be fit for the residents that councillors represent.

Councillor Linda Thomas amplified the demographic challenge and highlighted how in her area (Bolton) the over 65 population was projected to increase by 41 per cent in the next 20 years. Money again reared its head as a salient issue, with Councillor Thomas stressing the need to constantly re-design budgets to protect the vulnerable and offered integration as a possible solution. Stability in the NHS was also noted as a basic requirement with the formation of the health and wellbeing boards viewed as a constructive step to advance the adult social care agenda.

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