Report from the AGM of GM Centre for Voluntary Organisation on devolution

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council since 1996 and a
Labour Party member since 1984 today told the AGM of the Greater
Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation that he wants to see less
beds in GM hospitals, including Tameside, one of the most deprived areas
in the country, with some of the worst health outcomes.

He argued that many people currently in hospital need not be there. He
believes that the needs of such people can be better met in other ways.

He did not address how, with the massive cuts over recent years to local
authority social care services, and the shortage of people now willing
to   work in largely privatised home and residential care services, this
could  be achieved.

The £450 million ‘Transformation’ Fund monies agreed in the GM
Devolution agreement will only be allocated in proportion to ‘new care models’ the
10   GM councils develop between now and 2020. These new care models involve
voluntary services set up by so-called ‘resilient communities’,
includingshort-term funded ‘social enterprise’ projects that utilise low-paid,
unqualified staff and some private sector provision, such as CareUK
providing musculoskeletal services in Tameside.

Leese spoke of the need to boost the economy of GM, without reference to
the future of the experienced, trained staff at all levels whose jobs
will disappear along with the hospital beds: who of course currently
contribute   from their earnings to the local economy.

Many of these new care models are untested, meaning there is little or
no evidence as to their ability to adequately provide care that can prevent
hospital admissions.

Sir Richard based his statement in the context of austerity conditions
still existing despite George Osborne’s disappearance, and Jeremy Hunt
and Teresa May’s rejection of the recent Health Select Committee’s report on
the current lack of sufficient funding for health and social care. He
still hopes that the concept of a ‘Northern powerhouse’ is achievable,
but admitted that inequalities in societies tend to persist even in
richer economies.

He stated that the aim of devolution is growth, together with
fundamental change in public services, including health and social care. He
acknowledged this is an “an enormous challenge”.. “the biggest public
services reform on over 50 years”, quoting the new GM Chief Executive of
Health and Social Care saying “it’s so big you can see it from outer

Leese also spoke of the need to find work for 250,000 people in Greater
Manchester, referring to the Inclusive Growth Unit recently developed
between Manchester University and the Rowntree Foundation.

The City of Manchester was the hardest hit by the last recession,
despite the range of businesses being developed there.

He concluded by telling the representatives of voluntary and ‘social
enterprise’ organisations present that it is their job to “fill in the
holes” left in public services”.

Sir Richard did not  answer my question about taking into account the
views of local residents about the cutting of hospital beds or how these
cuts can be managed alongside the development envisaged of new care
models, in a period in which the government refuses increase health and
social care funding.

Barbara Dresner
Tameside KONP