All posts from: August 2011
It sounded like there was disagreement in the top rank of government.
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat, had written to Grant Shapps, the Conservative housing minister about a controversial government policy.
Mr Clegg’s letter was strongly worded with a vague hint of urgency.
A constituent had asked for his help after contracts paid for by Supporting People funding were threatened by council cuts.
The constituent had a request: that the housing minister consider reinstating the SP ring fence or face the consequences, which could be the loss of valuable services for vulnerable people or the danger that other organisations with no knowledge of these types of services would undercut traditional providers.
Mr Shapps wrote back in an equally frank tone: the unring-fenced grant would remain that way.
The central government cut to SP had been minimal and it was in the hands of councils to decide how and where their allocated pot was spent, although the government would be ‘mindful’ of where they money goes.
But, putting any political difference aside, there was really no chance that Mr Shapps would replace the ring fence – to do so would fly in the face of everything this government is trying to achieve.
Localism, at its core, gives councils the ability to spend their money on whatever they want, and to allocate their grant according to local needs.
In an ideal world, a council would choose to allocate a fair proportion of money to housing-based services which genuinely change people’s lives.
But local authorities are so strapped for cash that they are having to pick their battles: shore up the services for homeless people, or fix a pothole-ridden road.
Buy books for schools or staff a centre for women fleeing domestic violence. They are not decisions anyone would want to make.
As Mr Clegg said, there is no pattern nationally of the types of services being cut or the level of cuts, which makes it very difficult for providers to plan.
But ultimately, that is Localism.
And as the bill moves to its final stages in the House of Lords, it looks like it’s here to stay.