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Mr. Hinchliffe: I hope that people will note the hon. Gentleman's comments carefully. He said that people who have basic human rights should have the opportunity to be placed in institutional care when, as an alternative, his council is clearly and rightly attempting to ensure that they are given the right to remain in the community, which is the aim of the community care changes. He cannot honestly say that authorities have allowed unlimited packages. I have met his colleagues in Lancashire and many local authorities.

I worry about the message that the hon. Gentleman has got across. If he found himself in those circumstances and had certain needs, would he prefer to have services and support supplied to him in his home, and carers in the community to visit him at home, where he has lived all his life? Or would he prefer to be shunted into a private institutional care home, miles from where he lived, as is happening in many instances? It is a human rights issue. The hon. Gentleman said on the record that he would deny human rights. I hope that his constituents will note that.

Mr. Hawkins rose --

Mr. Hinchliffe: I must continue because my time is limited. I shall cover a number of points that the hon. Gentleman has made, if he will listen.

I recognise that, in many parts of Britain, a serious problem exists in relation to community care and it needs an urgent response. I listened carefully to the suggestions of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), who opened the debate. I want to make some constructive suggestions. I hope that the Minister will listen to them in a non-partisan and constructive way and that he will respond in some detail to my points.

It is important to remember that the difficulties arise directly from the implementation of the care elements of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. Those elements were clearly Treasury driven. I want to go back a bit further than the Liberal spokesman and to consider why we are in this position with these changes. The 1990 legislation attempted to unravel the mess that the Government had got into during the 1980s and 1990s in relation to the wholesale privatisation of the care of old people. That is why we have the problems.

Earlier in an intervention, I mentioned that private care in residential and nursing homes cost £9 million per annum when the Government came to power, but when

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the changes were introduced, it cost the Department of Health and Social Security some £2.5 billion, an enormous increase, which was caused by a deliberate policy of privatisation.

Mr. Hawkins: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hinchliffe: No. I am sorry. I must continue with my speech. I shall probably give way later if we get to an appropriate point. The problems arise because of the deliberate policy of the privatisation of the care of elderly people. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) said that we should push people into institutional care in the private sector, but they should have the opportunity to remain in their own homes in the community where they have lived all their lives. In 1979, there were 24,000 private care home places. That had grown to 135,000 by 1993. The comparable increase in the population of elderly, very elderly and vulnerable people is nowhere near that increase.

We are talking about choice. I was interested in the attack on local authority accommodation. That accommodation is part of an individual's choice. He can choose to go to whatever accommodation is appropriate to his particular needs. Many people positively want to choose local authority accommodation. During that period of massive increase in the private sector, the number of local authority home places fell from 102,000 to 63,000. To my knowledge, that figure has decreased even more.

The private institutional sector was deliberately expanded, with massive subsidies from the taxpayer, but national health service provision was deliberately reduced. The figures are on record. Following the implementation of the 1990 Act's care changes, the Government's formula for allocating the special transitional grant to individual local authorities caused immense difficulties, as everyone knows, whatever his or her politics. In the first year of the changes, it pushed money into regions with the most private care home places, despite the fact that, after the changes, residents in those homes had preserved entitlements to Department of Social Security benefits. The Government must have known that many people in homes came from different local authority areas, which were penalised by the formula.

The formula reflected the Government's care priorities: it propped up the business interests of the providers of private nursing and care homes. That is at the heart of many of the problems with which we are dealing this morning.

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman does not recognise that, in areas like mine, the shunting is being done by ideologically driven social workers, who are denying choice and who are not even telling the elderly and vulnerable that they have the choice to go into a private nursing home, which is often located just around the corner from where they live and which has high standards. They are told to enter, at double the cost, local authority homes, which are further away. That is a vast waste of taxpayers' money. That is the shunting that is going on and that is the cost.

Mr. Hinchliffe: I think that the Industry and Parliament Trust should extend its scheme to include the placement of Tory Members of Parliament in social services departments, so that they will come to the Chamber

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knowing what they are talking about. I did more than 20 years in front-line social work before I came to this place. I know that what the hon. Gentleman has just said is nonsense. He does not deserve an intelligent response to some of the points that he has raised. Frankly, he is speaking through ignorance and I suspect that some of his briefing material is based on The Daily Telegraph rather than on any reasoned analysis of what is happening in social services. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I would be most grateful if the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) would contain himself.

Mr. Harvey: Is the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) aware that social services authorities have shunted people out of local authority homes, where they have lived happily for many years, and into other provision, which is often further away from their home and less satisfactory? People at an advanced age who feel frail are very much at home in places where they have lived for many years. At that stage of their lives, they find the shift into private care, which is made for ideological reasons, traumatic.

Mr. Hinchliffe: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I have come across examples of that in various parts of the country. People have died by being moved in that way. It is a denial of choice and the Government insist that choice is at the root of the care changes. The choice, unfortunately, does not include that positive choice that many people make to enter local authority accommodation and to receive local authority services. There is a denial of choice, which is at the root of many elements of the Government's care policies. I want a response on those points from the Minister in his winding-up speech. The changed formula that was introduced in the current financial year was geared more closely, as the Minister will tell us, to standard spending assessment calculations, but its introduction, without any form of phasing, has completely undermined the planning and assumptions of local authorities that were better off under the original formula--mainly the county areas, many of which changed political control last year. That is the reason why one or two Tory Members, who would not normally be in the Chamber to discuss something as important as community care, are showing an interest in the subject. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) is waving at the Benches behind me. He may not be aware that a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party is taking place. This is one of the unfortunate problems with meeting on a Wednesday morning. As he knows, my colleagues would be here in force but for that meeting upstairs, which is packed to the rafters.

We have talked about people spending money wrongly, and I hope that Tory Members will listen to this point. The continued preoccupation with the so- called independent sector has forced the councils to spend more money than should have been necessary in many instances. The requirement to spend the bulk of the special transitional grant in this sector is resulting in people being placed in expensive permanent care because, often, councils cannot use the special transitional grant on their own home care services and there is frequently none available in the local independent sector. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire made that point.

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Last year, I undertook a survey of directors of social services in England. The responses showed that a third of local authorities found that what was then the 85 per cent. requirement was preventing them from developing alternatives to residential care. Half of them had not spent as much as they wanted on domiciliary care because of the 85 per cent. rule and a fifth stated that they had placed people unnecessarily in residential care because of a shortage of home care services.

Mr. Hawkins: What does the hon. Gentleman have to say about the authorities--Lancashire is an example--that have never made any attempt to get anywhere near the 85 per cent. requirement and are continuing to ensure that all their local authority homes are full, at the expense of all the good private sector homes, many of which are going bankrupt? That will cause even more social problems of the kind that the hon. Gentleman claims to be trying to avoid.

Mr. Hinchliffe: The private sector would concede that in some areas there is an overprovision of private care places. I have met people in the private sector who have said that. There are reservations about the use of the independent sector. One of the problems that we should address is the lack of regulation in certain parts of that sector. The Minister will tell us in a moment how the Government are attempting to increase the provision of domiciliary care in the independent sector, but he will not tell me why the Government are not prepared to regulate and register people in that sector. We see people from private cleaning companies going into those homes to care for some vulnerable old people without any sort of check or inspection. That is one of the reasons why caring councils such as Lancashire are worried about using the independent sector.

Mr. Hawkins rose --

Mr. Hinchliffe: I shall not give way again. I have been reasonable with the hon. Gentleman.

The Government's dogmatic approach to the implementation of the care changes is actively preventing innovation within the community and the development of community alternatives to institutional care. It is also wasting scarce public resources. The Government should respond on that point. It is a valid point which has been made by directors of social services and by local authorities of various political persuasions.

Alongside those constraints, local authorities have had to face up to the impact of the introduction of the health market. The Labour party's most recent survey, "Passing the Buck", was published in December and found clear evidence that in 54 per cent. of the 80 councils that responded, shunting from health to local authorities was a major factor in the current financial difficulties. A third of the councils described the way in which the cost of palliative care was pushed on to them. There were examples of nursing cases being passed on to local authorities. Shorter hospital stays for acute treatment mean early discharges. How far are we going?

Last night, my local evening paper, Yorkshire Evening Post , told the story of an 86-year-old man who, last week, was shunted home from Leeds general infirmary in a taxi in a snowstorm dressed in only his pyjamas and slippers

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and wrapped in a towel. His family are, rightly, angry. That is happening not just in Leeds but all over the country. People want to know what is going on. It means that cases such as that have to be wrongly picked up by local authority social services departments. They are having to deal with an increased number of requests for support packages for dependent people who used to recuperate within the NHS.

Anyone here who does not believe that the NHS is being privatised should try to obtain recuperative or respite nursing care for an elderly relative. In my constituency of Wakefield and elsewhere, after a local authority means test, people now have to buy that care from the private sector. I have piles of letters from pensioners in Wakefield and other parts of the country asking why they now have to pay again for the care for which they have paid all their lives, through national insurance and taxation, since the inception of the NHS and, in some instances, even before that. The generation who are responsible for the introduction of the welfare state-- people such as Cyril Turner, the 86-year-old I have mentioned--have found that it has deserted them when they are most in need. The privatisation of the health service and community care and the Government's obsession with the market are leaving thousands of people without access to the basic welfare services that they expected to be freely available when they needed them.

The answer to the present problems requires a marked change in direction by the Government. They must recognise that their health changes have led to enormous new demands on local authorities which were never anticipated when the funding arrangements for the care changes were considered. Funding must take account of the effect of the NHS changes on local authority budgets. It is crucial that when the new guidance on continuing care is completed by the Government, it should be made to stick. We should no longer hear of health authorities passing on their funding responsibilities to councils. The Government must recognise the real difficulties arising in the current year in areas such as Lancashire and Essex--county areas in particular-- which have arisen as a result of the sudden switch from one allocation formula to another. Spending plans have had to be scrapped and, in many areas, service cuts made. The Government must abandon the blanket requirement to spend set sums in the so-called independent sector and ensure that local authorities make the most cost-effective use of resources in a way that encourages the development of new services in all sectors.

I began my involvement in social work in the 1960s. I continued to be involved in social work in the 1970s and I placed people in private care homes although I was a member of the Labour party. There is nothing unusual about placing people in private care homes. Sadly, the Government seem to believe that the only care available is private institutional care. That is why many social workers are damned angry about remarks such as those made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins). Those remarks are inaccurate and do not reflect what has taken place in local social services arrangements for many years.

The Government's handling of community care suffers from the same constraints as their handling of the health service. They are obsessed with a private market model and, as a direct consequence, we are prevented from realising the enormous potential of community care. That

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type of care has immense potential for many people with a variety of needs. Community care could enhance the basic human rights of millions of people.

12.37 pm

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon): I will not detain the House for long, because I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say. Care in the community was introduced with all-party support and with the support of professionals and voluntary and private sector providers. In the county of Devon, it has been a success story in its first year. It was embraced with enthusiasm by the county council, whose efforts have been given plaudits and whose work has been commended by the district auditor. In that first year, I believed that it would be a success story.

However, the revision of the funding formula for the second year has been an absolute disaster for Devon. It has taken no less than 20 per cent. of the overall transfer brought about by the change in formula. It is impossible to meet the demands in that county when all the plans, all the contracts and all the work being undertaken can be interrupted by such an extraordinarily huge loss of budget. Many of those involved outside the county council have been hit. Some carers started up new operations, in some cases putting their life savings on the line to get a new facility up and running. They are finding that they are having to cut the level of client service that they had expected to be able to provide and, in some instances, the enterprise upon which they have embarked has been put in peril. The county of Devon has a very large elderly population which is not only indigenous but comprises many people who choose to retire there. Since the introduction of care in the community, the demand for new residential places has risen by no less than 85 per cent. It is impossible for the social services department to meet its obligations under the care in the community legislation while suffering such a cut in its resources.

To put matters into perspective, I shall cite a few figures. Under the previous arrangements, 4.65 per cent. of the Department of Social Security's spending on residential care was spent in Devon. Under the new arrangements, Devon county council is being provided with only 2 per cent. of the national spend, which means that its share of the national spend has been more than halved.

I implore the Minister to review the situation. If the quotas are not to be reversed, could the Government at least reconsider the capping limits so that the elected authority can take its case to the people of the county so that they can decide whether they want such appalling cuts in the provision of care?

12.40 pm

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point): Essex did rather well in terms of Government funding, which was increased this year by 22 per cent., or £32 million, for which we are grateful. In 1991, the amount spent on social services in Essex was £82.54 million; this year it is £174.89 million; and next year, it will be £192.35 million. Those represent generous real terms and cash increases.

I entirely accept that the social services department has had to take on new functions. By and large, it is doing its best to carry them out, although there have recently been

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some hiccups, with which I shall deal in a moment. Essex's proportion of the total national resource has been very generous, and I thank the Minister for that.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) made a thoughtful and helpful contribution, and its tone was excellent. I do not think that he accused the Government directly of underfunding the system, but he said that they had gone too far, too fast. He suggested that the changes could be slowed down and introduced over a 10-year period. If that is Liberal policy, what would he do about the current generation of elderly people who would be betrayed by such a time scale? They require help now, and might not be here to benefit from Liberal policy in 10 years' time.

Essex did very well under the new arrangements, but what did the Liberal and Labour parties in Essex do with all the extra money? They lost it though inadequate and incompetent budgeting, by following profligate socialist policies, by bad management and having too many managers, and by taking disastrous decisions. I hope to raise one instance in particular in an Adjournment debate very soon. Budgeting in Essex gave rise to particular problems. Those involved in social services management there did not realise that there are 12 months in a year. The Audit Commission warned in its report of the lack of proper and sensible financial controls and budgeting in a few county councils, including Essex. It called for better budgeting to manage fluctuations in demand and to ensure that the financial consequences of past commitments were properly anticipated and allowed for.

The Audit Commission also called for county councils to make better use of independent sector provision, which is often more cost-effective, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) pointed out. Independent sector provision is often of a higher quality, but not necessarily so; there is some excellent state provision in my constituency, which I welcome.

The commission called for increasing flexibility and more prudent policies. Its report, entitled "Paying the Piper", identified potential savings of £500 million which could be made through better management control of local government pay bills, and would involve no cuts in front-line services.

Essex got its budgeting wrong, but that is not the whole story. Liberal and Labour control in the county meant a procession of eccentric, politically correct, madcap and profligate policies, which were followed not by mistake but on purpose, out of socialist dogma. I reviewed some of these incompetent and dogmatic socialist schemes in my Adjournment debate of 11 January. I do not have time to repeat them, but they are on the record.

Essex social services lost a total of £8.5 million. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the money was thrown away on mad ideas. To its great and permanent shame, the county council took some cruel and insensitive action to cover its loony left incompetence. It cut care in the community provision and front-line service delivery to the old, the frail, the disabled and even children--the most vulnerable people in society whom the council should be protecting. Those whose need was greatest had their services cruelly cut, while incompetent social services managers, who cannot even count the number of months in a year, have increased their already very high salaries this year.

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Socialist and Liberal Democrat councillors are reinforcing their wasteful, profligate and dogmatic policies unchecked, and are not in the least humbled by their disasters.

To solve the problem, the council should use its £28 million reserves this year to reinstate the services that it so cruelly cut. It must also drop its madcap, profligate policies, and reduce management levels. It should also reduce management salaries by 6 per cent. in order to save money to protect vulnerable people in future, as I pointed out in my Adjournment debate. There should be no cuts in staff levels or staff wages in the front-line services in Essex, because those people are the deliverers of care such as home helps. They are good people.

One consequence of socialist dogma and incompetence in community care in Essex has been hospital bed blocking. Again, I alluded to it in my Adjournment debate on 11 January, as did my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester, South and Maldon (Mr. Whittingdale), for Rochford (Dr. Clark) and for Basildon (Mr. Amess) and many others. I conclude at this point, because I know that the Minister is anxious to deal with the points that have been raised. However, I call on Essex county council to change its madcap policies, and to use its reserves of £28 million to make good the cruel cuts that it has imposed.

12.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) for providing the opportunity for this debate, not least because, on this morning of Back Benchers' debates, he has abandoned his constituents and come south, referring to the constituents of hon. Members in the English counties and metropolitan areas. The hon. Gentleman entitled the debate "Care in the Community", a phrase that applies specifically to mental health. However, he dealt also with community care, and I shall respond on both counts. The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the financing of mental health care, which is the domain of the health service and social services. This year, we have invested £2.5 billion in mental health care. Since 1979, there has been a 40 per cent. real terms increase in national health spending and a 171 per cent. real terms increase in social service spending.

I agree that we need to do more and ensure that mental health is moved up the list of priorities. Indeed, the White Paper "The Health of the Nation" made it one of five key areas of activity. That is why we introduced the mental illness specific grant, which is widely recognised as having initiated good practice locally.

There are more than a thousand new projects, and more than 100,000 people being helped by this scheme already. This year, £36 million of Government money is supporting spending of £50 million. Next year, we shall announce Government spending of £47.3 million supporting £66 million. That is a 30 per cent. increase, which is good news for spending on mental health. In addition, this year the Government are spending some £2.4 million through section 64 grants to voluntary organisations.

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We are putting the money into medium secure beds, which are perceived to be the gap in provision. The Glancy report, which was mentioned last night, reported that there were no such beds by 1979. There are now 1,300 secure and interim secure beds available, and we are building on that achievement this year and next year. In addition, we are putting an extra £10 million into London services, as a result of our task forces and London Implementation Group surveys of the health service, which will be helpful.

It is a question of joint commissioning between health and social services, and working with the independent sector. No one in the House would disagree with the need to involve the independent sector as well. MIND has been mentioned, which is a provider as well as a lobbyist. Many others help us in this area, and it is an important area for those who are severely mentally ill and, of course, for those who suffer from dementia. As the population ages, more people will be frail of mind as well as of body, and will need social care as well as medical care. We need to ensure that there is provision in the community as well as provision in hospitals.

Getting clinical discharge right is important. That is why we issued the new guidance on that. The care programme approach is central to management in the community. We are putting a lot of emphasis on key work and key worker training. We shall be bringing forward the supervised discharge proposal, which has now been endorsed by the report of Sir Louis Blom- Cooper, to the House in the very near future, together with other measures in that area. I shall move on to the bulk of the debate, which in many ways has summed up the reality of community care. I acknowledge the opening words of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire. Tributes have been paid to the start of community care, and that is right. The hon. Gentleman welcomed the policy, and that is right. I know of nobody who disagrees with the policy. There is perhaps some disagreement on emphasis in the practice and implementation of it, but the policy is right, and progress has been made.

Of course, some concerns about that progress have been rightly identified across the House, and we shall look at them. Hon. Members from all parties have also mentioned some poor performances. My hon. Friends who have raised those matters are fair in raising some of the motives behind some of the problems. There has been an element of dogma in some of the decision making in community care, which my hon. Friends have raised in speeches and interventions. It would be absurd to suggest that that problem does not exist. We must try to nail the dogma when it emerges and ensure that decisions are taken through good financial and care management throughout the country. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire also paid tribute to counsellors, and I echo that tribute. I would start by paying tribute to the directors of social services around the country and their teams, who have put care in the community into practice. Many councillors around the country of all parties are sincerely trying to make it work.

Again, my hon. Friends were right to point out those councillors who are trying to put obstacles in the way and use community care as an excuse to blame the

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Government for all the ills of the nation and all the funding ills, which those councillors choose to highlight for any local newspaper headline of the day.

Mr. Kirkwood indicated assent .

Mr. Bowis: I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman clearly recognises that.

I shall pin down one or two funding issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. He said that Lancashire and Devon had lost £14 million and £16 million respectively, the latter of which was also mentioned by his hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey). I do not know where those figures come from. Those counties have not lost any money at all. They have gained money. What the hon. Gentlemen are trying to say is that the counties have not gained as much as they would have liked, or, indeed, gained as much, in some cases, as they perhaps led themselves to expect.

Far from Lancashire losing £14 million, wherever that came from, it in fact, with the special transitional grant changes, received a reduction of £8 million. But, in the standard spending assessment change, implemented in the same year, it got £7 million more than it could have expected. We need to take that into account. Overall, from having £62 million to spend in 1991, it had £108 million in 1993-94 and that figure has risen to £126 million this year, which is a 15.4 per cent. increase on the previous year. It is due to have £142 million in the coming year. That represents a 66 per cent. increase compared with the national increase in England as a whole, and that is good news.

Mr. Hinchliffe rose --

Mr. Bowis: I am sorry, but I want to answer the points that have been made.

The same goes for Devon, although it involves bigger figures. Essentially, it lost £9 million in the STG and gained £6 million in the SSA. That needs to be put into context. I know that there are one or two problems in Devon, not least because of the pressures of the elderly and mentally ill coming into the county. But in Devon, the figures have risen from £63 million to £108 million--the same pattern as in Lancashire--to £122 million, which is a 13.5 per cent. increase this year, and up to £136 million next year, representing a 77 per cent. increase over those five years.

I suggest that the hon. Member for North Devon goes back to Devon and says to the council that it receives generous funding, and asks it why it is planning to underspend. If it is under such pressure, why is it planning to spend 5 per cent. less than the SSA indicates it needs to spend, which is provided for in central and local funding? That does not make sense.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire requested something that I can easily fulfil, because it has already been announced. He rightly asked for careful consideration of community care, and he wanted everybody to take part in those discussions. I agree with that. As hon. Members from all parties have said, we are talking about a policy which was originally intended to be implemented over a decade. Of course, through all our monitoring, we have identified areas which need strengthening, such as housing, information, the involvement of users and carers, and better involvement of the independent sector.

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We need to plan ahead. That is why, at the social services conference, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that we would be taking that issue forward and arranging a forum to look at how we should proceed. Indeed, when I met the local associations, the Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, including Councillor Ann Peniket, who is one of the hon. Gentleman's party colleagues in local government, I said that the local authority associations would be involved with our officials in that forum. They were made that offer, and I know that they will take part, because they accepted it on the spot. We will be able to plan future development together.

Mr. Kirkwood: I want to push the Minister on that point. Is the forum a standing mechanism, which, over a period, will address common problems raised by Government, local authorities and other interested parties?

Mr. Bowis: It is to see how we develop, where the pressures are and how we should plan for the future.

Mr. Kirkwood: Is it a standing mechanism?

Mr. Bowis: It is a forum that we have set up. It does not matter whether it is standing or sitting. It will enable co-operation and co- ordination.

It is right to draw attention to long-term health care, as we are doing, not least with the Leeds case. We have issued the draft discharge guidance. The Department has listened very carefully to the points made by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, my hon. Friends and many others. We shall be refining that guidance, with which I think that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased.

Let me make it very clear that cradle-to-grave health care will remain. Most people's health care is carried out by GPs and primary health care. When that is necessary, it applies wherever one lives, in one's own home or in residential care. That will stay, and the same goes for the need for health care which involves hospitalisation or national health service cover in the residential sector. We must get the area between health and social services right, and we are working on it through the guidance and good practice of the work of the NHS executive.

I cannot answer all the points made by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire. He made many good points and one or two contentious points, which were answered by my hon. Friends.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) also raised a number of important points. He exemplified Bromley as showing a good record of implementation, overcoming problems and managing with the funds available. Funding is generous. Funding for community care is not only special transitional grants. That element represented what had previously gone from the Department of Social Security through income support to residents in the independent sector. It was important to give stability to that sector and to the residents in it. That is why there was an 85 per cent. requirement for the opening years, and why we have the same requirement for next year alongside the hospital discharge agreement between health and social services. The Audit Commission has produced two reports, one of which emphasises the £500 million to be saved through better staff cost management. The other report considers

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better financial control to improve community care, better use of the independent sector and ensuring that the available money is spent on social services.

The policy is popular, and it is well resourced. It is not Treasury driven; it is user driven. It is run by local authorities, because they asked to run it. They must show that they can deliver and most of them are doing just that. A few are having difficulties--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse): Order. Time is up.

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Police Budget (Suffolk)

1 pm

Mr. Jamie Cann (Ipswich): Disquiet was expressed by several hon. Members in a debate in this place yesterday about the impact of police grants on the police services in various counties. My next door neighbour, the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), intervened in that debate. It is therefore useful today to examine a fairly representative shire county to consider the difficulties which have arisen as a result of the settlement that has been achieved. Before I go any further, I must state that the debate is not about the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. I shall not go on about independent people being members of the police authorities. The issue is not about the principle of cash limits or the desirability, or otherwise, of using the formula. It is not about whether it is appropriate to devolve such matters to the chief constable. The debate is not about politics in a party political sense. I represent the view of many Suffolk people of all political persuasions. The police authority in Suffolk is unanimous in its view, and that involves the magistrates, Conservatives, Liberals, Labour members and independents appointed by the Hone Secretary. They believe that there is a case to be answered.

In the Home Office press release 241/94, the Home Secretary stated:

"Provision for the police service in England and Wales will increase by approximately 3 per cent. over 1994-95. This is fully sufficient to enable the present number of police officers to be maintained across the country, if chief officers, in consultation with police authorities, choose to do so."

I contend that that statement is incorrect when the figures are worked out.

Much of the problem relates to the formula. Everyone recognises that no formula could conceivably treat everyone fairly across the nation, because of the immense differences that exist. What is more, the formula is new and new formulae are even worse than older ones in that they have not been tried and there are bound to be teething problems.

Concern was expressed when the formula was first introduced. The Association of Chief Police Officers had 15 meetings about the formula. ACPO states:

"the outcome of the current formula cannot be construed, in any terms, as a sound basis for the equitable distribution of resources to police forces in the future. The anomalies are clearly apparent even to the lay observer".

The representatives of police officers had no faith in the formula even when it was first introduced.

Suffolk has suffered particularly badly as a result of the formula. Suffolk is the second lowest spender per head of population on its police services in the whole of Britain. Some 23p per head per day is all that is spent on the police services in Suffolk. However, Suffolk finds itself with a cash increase of only £2,086,000, when it has extra costs which have been calculated as follows: between £2 million and £2.5 million extra is required for lump sum pensions; in respect of pay, from September 1994 full year consequences require an extra £0.4 million; in September 1995, the probable half-yearly pay increase will be between £300,000 and £500,000.

In addition, Suffolk has had to establish a contingency fund because it has been separated from the county council on which it used to rely. That will cost between

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£500,000 and £700,000. If we include other factors, such as price increases, pay increases for civilian employees and the capital programme, it is estimated that Suffolk has a £3 million shortfall. It is probably appropriate at this stage to quote the chief constable of Suffolk. He stated:

"The major difficulty for the Constabulary arises from the considerable increase in funding requirements to deal with police pensions, particularly the payment of lump sums to which all ranks are entitled following their completion of appropriate pensionable service. The increase in Suffolk to make adequate provision for 1995-96 is in the region of £3 million and this is not atypical of other constabularies.

When this increase is matched to the requirement to absorb the impact of a pay award of 3 per cent. and the requirement to maintain adequate reserves following the creation of autonomous police authorities . . . the position is further aggravated. If this is then placed alongside a formula which has redistributed resources such that a small number are showing considerable gains while others are facing heavy losses, one can readily see the extent of our difficulties. Recent research has indicated that when comparing the costs of policing per person of population only one other force, West Mercia, shows a lower figure than that for Suffolk, with some forces (particularly the Metropolitan forces) spending over twice as much per person."

That is the problem that the police authority and the chief constable face in Suffolk because of the settlement announced yesterday.

How is the police authority going to cope? The chairman is not a politician but a magistrate. He was elected by the independent members of the authority who were appointed by the Home Secretary. I think that the Minister should listen carefully to what the police authority chairman has to say. He said:

"The existing authority has made substantial savings during 1994-95--about £1 million. These have been achieved through a range of efficiency and value for money measures. But they have also meant holding vacant 43 police officer posts out of an establishment of 1, 234.

Last week, the new authority reached the conclusion that another £3 million of savings would be needed if the maximum budget requirement for 1995-96 permitted under the capping regime is around £58 million.

About £1 million of these savings will come from the leaner structure being introduced by the Chief Constable and from some savings on overtime.

A further £1 million will come from reducing expenditure on a wide range of operational and administrative items. These include reducing overtime for police officers and civilians, reducing police officer training, reducing building maintenance"--

to emergency repairs only--

"reducing transport costs and increasing charges.

These reductions will of course have an effect on the policing of Suffolk.

The third £1 million can only come from reducing the number of police officers (by a further 60) and civilian employees (by 20), by closing two police stations and deferring construction of a new station. The total number of police officer vacancies would rise to just over 100.

HM Inspector of Constabulary has regularly commended the efficiency and effectiveness of Suffolk Constabulary. Both would be severely affected by the scale of reductions in police officers now facing the Authority and which are totally at odds with the Home Secretary's statement."

It is projected that, in 1996-97, a further 40 jobs will be lost in the police force. That would make a total of 143 job losses in three years out of an establishment, agreed only two years ago with the Home Office, of 1,234. It does not take an Einstein to calculate that that is an 11 per cent. reduction in the operational police force.

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