Editor's Comment

20.12.16

No early Christmas presents

Source: PSE Dec/Jan 17

As the chancellor stood at the despatch box in late November, the public sector waited with bated breath at what support would be given to those that are working under extreme pressure. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Philip Hammond didn’t deliver any early Christmas presents for local government. And it is unlikely that we will see A Christmas Carol change of heart anytime soon. 

Despite major calls from a plethora of organisations for the chancellor to deliver extra funding to alleviate the strain on social care, nothing at all was mentioned about it in his speech or the supporting document. And when I say nothing, I mean not a single word. 

This, quite rightly, led to an outpouring of criticism from the sector. But as PSE went to press, Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England, told us during a Q&A session at the NHS Providers annual conference that he had “not given up on the possibility” that there might be a stocking filler with extra funding  from Treasury directed in the way of adult social care. However, until this materialises, it looks to be a bleak Christmas and New Year for the sector. 

Hammond placed great emphasis on supporting productivity and investing in infrastructure, especially through the development of a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund. But, again, there was no mention about the role of local government in allocating spending. Philip Atkins, vice-chairman of the County Councils Network, said that once you look beyond local government finance, there is a lot to be engaged with in the Autumn Statement, particularly around growth. 

In another insightful piece, Alexandra Jones, CEO at Centre for Cities, reflected that in order to boost productivity, as the chancellor wants, then there must be a concerted effort to tackle the skills gaps across the country. But as she explains on page 20, this is one piece of the jigsaw that was missing from the plans put forward in the statement. 

Other announcements by the chancellor included extra devolution powers for London on its adult education budget and employment support services. There was also a mention that mayoral combined authorities in England will get new borrowing powers. However, there was nothing about devolution beyond the major cities. 

In this edition of PSE, we talk to Labour’s shadow devolution minister, Jim McMahon, about the future development of deals and the role of mayors. On page 24, the former leader of Oldham Council also calls for a national devolution framework to be delivered. 

Throughout this issue we have a number of analytical pieces looking at public service reform and the opportunities to drive change forward in these turbulent times, especially through digital transformation and the smart cities agenda. 

I do hope that you enjoy this festive edition of PSE, and from all of us here I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

David Stevenson

Editor

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