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My co-ward councillor, who had been a councillor before I joined him in the ward in the borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed, had to be out of office for a year for a misdemeanour which, under the new code, would not count as such. He tried to represent his constituents on planning but was slightly foolish in that he did not take the advice of the borough solicitor and contravened the rules at the time. Now, I would step into the breach. However, under the reorganisation, in the wards in question, which constitute a small part of the county division that I represent, there will be one councillor for the whole of my county division. If I were that councillor and were out of office for a year, that would be quite serious for my part of the county.

I can think of all sorts of scenarios in which someone not being allowed to take part would be detrimental, and my noble friend makes a very good point. It does not make sense to say that someone can be dismissed from a council because they have not attended for six months, yet they can be out of office for a year for a misdemeanour. As I have already said in these proceedings, given that in my part of Northumberland the number of councillors is going down from 306 to 67, I think that the Government should look at this matter rather more carefully. I therefore have a great deal of sympathy for what my noble friend said.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. These are important points—especially that raised in the closing remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock.

Opposition Amendment No. 203 would amend the maximum sanction of suspension of a local councillor from office that a case tribunal of the adjudication

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panel could impose from the current one year to six months. It may be useful if I put this proposal in the context of the maximum sanction available to standards committees, which, in the new conduct regime, will deal with most misconduct allegations. At the moment, standards committees are able to impose on a member a maximum sanction of suspension from office of only three months, and this is set by regulations. As, for all the reasons that we have discussed at various stages of the Bill, it is likely under the new regime that committees will consider a larger number of more serious cases, we intend shortly to consult on a proposal to increase the maximum sanction available to committees to six months. In that context, we consider it appropriate that a legally constituted quasi-judicial tribunal of the adjudication panel should be able to impose a higher penalty than a local standards committee.

The consequence of a decision to suspend a member from office is that the member must cease to act as a councillor. Notwithstanding the difficulties in large areas with single-member wards—of which the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, spoke and to which I listened carefully—for the period of suspension electors are required, rightly, to rely on other councillors in the same ward or neighbouring wards, as appropriate, to represent their interests. That is not always easy to do but clearly it is an obligation.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I should have declared an interest as a member of a standards board on both Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council and the county council.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am very grateful that we have that on the record. The current rules relating to the maximum sanction available to the adjudication panel have been in operation since the provisions were enacted in 2000. I know how seriously noble Lords take the local government world, but we have received no indication from that quarter that the time limits on suspension are a matter of concern. Up to March 2007, suspension from office for one year occurred in less than 4 per cent of the adjudications made by the adjudication panel, so the power is not being used extensively, let alone misused.

In addition, we consider that the retention of the one-year maximum is appropriate to allow the panel to be able to reflect the seriousness of the conduct which might attract such a penalty. The types of behaviour that have attracted the maximum penalty include threatening or abusive behaviour which has not resulted in a criminal charge but is a very serious breach of the code of conduct. I think it right that in such cases the sanction available should be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, and I believe that the provision provides for that. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, I am relieved to hear that this sanction has been used only in a small proportion of cases; nevertheless, as we heard from my noble friend Lady Maddock, it does happen. I remain of the view that a year is a very long time for a local area to be unrepresented,

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particularly in a single-member ward. It is all right to say that that work can be pushed on to someone else, but more councillors are already pretty busy looking after their own wards. To have to take on all the casework that relates to another ward for a year because of the misdemeanours of one of these colleagues is a bit rough for them. It is less than satisfactory for the community involved.

If the proposed sanction is a year in areas of conduct that are so serious, such as threatening behaviour, to which the noble Baroness referred, perhaps a better way from the point of view of the electorate would be to end someone’s term of office. At some point later they would become eligible to restand. To leave an area unrepresented for a year is dangerous and wrong. To argue that it does not matter is to undermine the democratic principle. I remain unconvinced but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 226 [Health services and social services: local involvement networks]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 204:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have a subtle shift of subject to health. I shall also speak to government Amendments Nos. 205 and 207. The amendments deal with the activities to which Clause 226(2) refers.

In Committee the noble Earl, Lord Howe, sought to establish that the activity of a LINk to monitor and review the commissioning and the provision of health and social care services was for the purpose of securing and maintaining improvements to those services, and to put a requirement to this effect in the Bill.

At the time, in the context of the debate, I certainly agreed that this definition of purpose was a useful and positive indicator of what LINks would do, but improving local services already seemed an explicit, overarching aim of LINks—what would they have been set up to do otherwise? Moreover, in the same clause, we set out that the purpose of the reports and recommendations of a LINk was to suggest how services might be improved. While accepting the intention, we were concerned about needless duplication. I agreed to take the amendment away for more careful consideration and, in particular, to think about whether it could be applied to all of LINks’ activities rather than just one of them. On reflection, we agreed with the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that an amendment setting out the purposes of LINks’ monitoring and reviewing of local care services would be particularly valuable—more so than referring to all LINks services as originally thought. I have, therefore, brought forward these amendments, which aim to achieve the purpose that he sought, but without causing duplication.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that the revised amendments strengthen and capture the policy intent of the noble Earl’s proposal and set out the specific purposes of LINks’ monitoring and reviewing of

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local care services in a way which can be clearly understood, commended and followed by LINks themselves. That is what we all want. Explicitly, these purposes are threefold: the standard of provision of local care services; whether and how local care services could be improved; and whether and how local care services ought to be improved.

Amendment No. 207 amends Clause 226(2)(d)(ii) to make it clear that the reports made by a LINk may refer to ways in which local care services could or ought to be improved. I hope that the scope of the amendments will commend itself to the noble Earl and that he can accept them. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having taken our concerns from Committee and examined them so constructively. The amendments that she now proposes go a long way towards meeting the objectives behind my amendments tabled in Committee. They improve the whole flavour of this part of the Bill. I hope that other noble Lords will feel similarly, and I am pleased to accept the government amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 205:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Low of Dalston moved Amendment No. 206:

“( ) enabling people to monitor and review the provision of care services and local care services for persons moving their place of ordinary residence into the area.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise for the slight delay. I also speak to Amendment No. 220. These amendments are the same as Amendments Nos. 238LZA and 245B, which I spoke to in Committee when I highlighted a number of issues around social mobility for disabled people, the freedom to live where they like and local authority responsibilities in this area.

Each year, disabled people are being prevented from moving home, or moving from residential care to independent living, because of bureaucratic delays and disputes about who should pay for their care. The root cause of these problems is the definition of someone’s place of ordinary residence, a means whereby local authorities and primary care trusts determine which authority has responsibility for personal support for disabled people who live in their area. There is no legal definition of “ordinary residence” and the guidance is unclear.

Some local authorities are using this confusion to delay or avoid paying the costs of the care for those for whom they should be responsible. The amendments struck a chord with noble Lords who, speaking with great experience of both the statutory and voluntary sectors, stressed that this problem has been crying out for a solution for decades. There was widespread support for the notion that it is a fundamental principle that the ability to change one’s place of ordinary

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residence should not be dependent on purely administrative considerations or the convenience of health and social care systems, and that a framework should be put in place for the transfer of funds between authorities so that the issue of ordinary residence can no longer be used as a basis for refusing to provide care and support.

In Committee on 23 July, at cols. 611-12, the Minister was extremely positive in her response. She agreed that these were important issues which merited more detailed examination, saying that she was happy to take them away and encourage her civil servants to discuss them with interested parties. She offered to press for significant progress before Report, and undertook to look carefully at the issues and come back with some practical, simple and straightforward suggestions. All noble Lords in this House will be interested to hear what the Minister has been able to achieve between Committee and now. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Low, has admirably summarised the issue in relation to these amendments. I merely rise to say that I should like to give him the fullest support from these Benches. I recognise that this is not an easy problem to solve. It is, however, a long-standing one. I hope that the reply we are about to hear will be suitably constructive.

Baroness Neuberger: My Lords, I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, have said. It has been a long-standing problem, causing considerable distress to a large number of people over the years. We on these Benches strongly support these amendments.

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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, this problem lives in the “too difficult” box. No one will apply his mind to take it apart to assess the parts that can be tackled and dealt with. After all these years, the Government have a responsibility to do something about a problem that causes extreme anxiety and distress to a large number of vulnerable people. The noble Lord, Lord Low, indicated and I emphasise that they are usually people who find it difficult to speak and argue for themselves. A move from one place to another will often make a real difference to their lives; they might be closer to their family or to someone they love. A young disabled woman I know fell in love—people do—with a young man but, as she was in a particular placement, she found it impossible to be moved to another placement because another local authority would not accept the payment for her move. That happens across the spectrum. There are complex difficulties about people moving from residential homes into special housing or even into ordinary housing. I have been pressing that with Ministers in the other place for some time. It is difficult, but it should be possible to resolve this issue with the Local Government Association. I understood that guidance had been put in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not made more anxious and their lives are not made more difficult by

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this administrative burden. If the Minister does not have an answer today about how this might be resolved, will she or the Government go back to the Local Government Association to seek a resolution once and for all?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am again speaking on this issue and I hope I can continue the constructive and positive tone of Committee. I will explain some practical and straightforward steps that the Government plan to take. I thank noble Lords who spoke and particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Low, for continuing to keep this discussion out of the “too difficult” box. I am sure that we will have opportunities to keep it out of that box in the new Session.

This amendment seeks to ensure that LINks can have an overview on issues including, for example, if a local authority wants to move someone to a care home out of the area. I confirm that the activities of a LINk in relation to a local authority area, as they are described in Clause 226(2), apply to care commissioned and provided to people who have moved their place of ordinary residence into that area. The definition of “local care services” given in Clause 226(5) is,

Therefore, anyone living even temporarily within a given local authority area will be able to share their experiences of care services with the LINk for that area, even if the services they receive are from outside that area—I wish to stress that. Any healthcare commissioned by the PCT will fall under the remit of a LINk, even if it is provided in, for example, a prison.

I understand that Amendment No. 220 is a means to secure what the noble Lord, Lord Low, eloquently described as social mobility by ensuring that local authorities should be under a duty to co-operate, for example, in the sharing of needs assessments to facilitate and speed up payments if people move from area to area. I understand the examples given by noble Lords today. This is an important issue and not something that we wish to be seen not understanding. I thank noble Lords for clarifying the issues around the mobility of disabled people and the local authority’s responsibilities in this area.

Officials from the Department of Health met representatives from the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group—VODG—in mid-September to discuss these matters. At that meeting, it was agreed that, as part of the department’s priority-setting round, which begins soon, they would consider the case for updating and revising the ordinary residence rules and that any future work would involve the VODG and other key stakeholders. That is an important development.

We will be making three small technical changes to the ordinary residence rules in the health and social care Bill that is likely to come before the House in the new Session. The first change involves the situation where the dispute involves an authority in England and an authority in Wales. At present, such a dispute can be resolved only through an arrangement between the National Assembly for Wales and the Secretary of

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State for Health. The second change addresses the fact that the statutory provisions governing how a person’s ordinary residence is affected by receiving NHS in-patient treatment in non-NHS settings—for example, care homes and private hospitals—are out of step with those for patients receiving such treatment in NHS settings. We plan to remedy that. The third change relates to ordinary residence disputes involving Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. At present, disputes that cannot be resolved locally must be referred to the court for a decision. The amendment will allow the Secretary of State to make a determination thus simplifying the process and reducing potential costs for all involved.

I hope that we can keep this important issue out of the “too difficult” box. I am aware that the department is looking forward to continuing to work with organisations such as the VODG and other stakeholders and continues to be grateful to noble Lords for raising these important issues. I imagine that they will continue to do so when we discuss future legislation on this matter. I hope the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. It is clear that things are moving forward positively, so I will be able to withdraw the amendment. I am grateful for the changes that the Government propose to make to legislation and regulations. However, there is more work to do. The noble Baroness said that the department is going to consider whether it can undertake further work on this issue and what priority it can give it in its work programme for the period ahead. I do not have a great deal of confidence in the department’s priorities on this issue because in 1984 there was undertaking to revise the relevant guidance, but it has not yet been done. We will need to continue to be vigilant about the priority this is given in the department. I hope that the noble Baroness will continue to keep a vigilant eye on it and will use her good offices and her best endeavours to ensure that it is given appropriate priority. Noble Lords have indicated that this problem is long overdue for solution, and I hope the Minister will do her best to ensure that it is accorded some priority in the department’s programme. If there are any difficulties about this I am sure the noble Baroness will be more than happy to meet noble Lords who have expressed an interest in these issues.

Having heard what the noble Baroness has had to say, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 207:

(a) the standard of provision of local care services;(b) whether, and how, local care services could be improved;(c) whether, and how, local care services ought to be improved.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 227 [Arrangements under section 226(1)]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 207A:

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(a) a local authority;(b) a National Health Service Trust; (c) an NHS Foundation Trust;(d) a Primary Care Trust; or(e) a Strategic Health Authority.”

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 207A, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 208A, 209ZA, 210ZC and 210ZD. We have come to a group of amendments, most of which in their different ways relate to the same problem. I use the word “problem” as the most neutral term I can readily think of for what many of us regard as a most serious and regrettable weakness in this part of the Bill; namely, the absence of even the slightest hint of a statutory identity for LINks. There is a complete lack of any descriptive reference to what a LINk might look like and practically no definition of a LINk, apart from it having to be a person, which is simply a piece of legal jargon and gets us almost nowhere.

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