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‘Big barriers’ to community budgets, PAC finds

Pilots to pool local council and agency budgets are facing serious barriers, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing into the integration of public services and community budgets has heard.

Four council areas are trialling pooled budgets: West Cheshire, Essex, Greater Manchester and the west London tri-borough area. However, the NAO concluded in March that there was “little evidence” of improved services as a result.

PAC heard at an evidence session on April 24 that longer-term funding streams for local agencies could help integration, and that organisations must prove budgets are creating positive impact in the community as a whole.

Chief executive of Manchester City Council, Geoff Little, warned that attempts to make the most of local funding had actually turned into “a discussion about who loses what”, and that attempts to reduce total spending had failed.

He added: “I think the big barrier for me now is how we get from this relatively small-scale piloting work with good evidence to the sort of scale that is going to have a real impact. 

“What we are talking about here is changing people’s lives and behaviours; this is not the sort of thing that is achieved within a single year. For example, CCGs have a one-year accounting period: they are not allowed to carry money forward at scale from one year to the next. If we are serious about moving money from the acute sector into the community sector, that needs to change.”

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