Geoffrey Theobald: Social care costs, and never-ending rail strikes

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It is impossible to ignore the pressure that adult social care is under and particularly at this time of year the problems are really highlighted.

The government announcement by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid of extra funding for councils’ last week in the Local Government Finance Settlement is therefore most welcome. This will of course help but as we have an ageing population with one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago, costs will inevitably increase.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Javid’s comments that more money is “not the only answer” and that some councils need to work harder to reduce delays in discharging people from hospital beds caused by a lack of available social care. Bed-blocking is an issue across the country as well as in Brighton and Hove, in which elderly people with no medical need to be in hospital are essentially stuck there. Indeed, days lost to bed-blocking have gone up by one third nationally in the last year. Other councils such as North Tyneside and Buckinghamshire and Essex County Councils have come up with innovative ways to solve this issue by helping older people retain their dignity and stay in their own homes while at the same time making efficiency savings. In reality, Brighton and Hove’s unit costs in social care are still high compared to other similar councils so there should still be some scope for further savings without impacting on frontline service delivery.

I would very much like to take this opportunity to wish all residents of Brighton and Hove a Happy Christmas and New Year with the sincere hope that the train strikes that are affecting all of us so badly will be over quickly. I cannot recollect strikes before that have affected so severely those going to work, those going to hospital, those going to school and university, not to mention the ongoing financial impact on local hotels, shops, restaurants and businesses, when not one single rail employee is going to lose their job or any earnings. I would therefore call on the trade unions to end their industrial action to get the residents and businesses of Sussex moving again before even more damage is done.

Geoffrey Theobald is the leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.