Assure, assure, assure a bit like assume but makes an "Ass you are", instead.

It's a bit like when you hear that "xxx takes the matter extremely seriously" and you think "Oh, yeah, so how did you get to this oint ?"

Expand full comment

I trust very little of what is said about the finances of NNC. In fact, more broadly, I trust very little of what is said about how NNC is managed and run. It has been a sequence of mess-ups, small and large, right from the start. The disaster at NCC was caused, in major part, by its operation, essentially by fiat, by a small cabal of secretive but aggressive incompetents, and much the same is now happening, as we all know very well, in NNC. We, the public, are being kept in the dark, fed occasional highly selective "factoids", and we are being asked to believe that the "grown-ups" have matters under control, and will tell us as much as we need to know, when the time is right, and not before.

It really isn't good enough. We have a right to expect better.

I do not doubt that the immediate problem is the cost of children's (and adults') social services, but since we know little more than this, how can we judge further?

"Cllr Scott Edwards ... said he could assure councillors the trust was being scrutinised financially." No, he cannot, because that scrutiny is not taking place in public. And, in any case, NNC wrecked any positive reputation it might claim to have for scrutiny, in the mini-fiasco over the scrutiny of the grey bins issue.

I do not foresee central government bailing out NNC in anything like the current circumstances. The general taxpayer does not owe us a living. Many elements of what got us here are home-grown and require local solutions - not least relating to the surprisingly small amounts of council tax that we pay. But Cllrs Ekins and Hakewill are also correct - the solution is not simply to hose down children's services with money (especially with money that we don't have). That was tried by NCC and it didn't work.

There are some pretty basic questions that need to be asked, and their answers are, to the best of my knowledge, not currently in the public domain. Certainly, we cannot decide if it really is a matter of over-costing or under-funding until we know these answers. How much of children's services budget is paid from central government, and how much by council tax payers? How many children in NNC fall into the aegis of children's services? How does this number compare with other areas of similar socio-economic mix? Similarly, how does the cost per looked-after child compare with other areas? It was a definite part of the news agenda at the time of the Caller Report that failure to manage children's (and adults') services had led to empire building in the services themselves, and I, for one, want to know if anything that has happened since (remembering that quite a few of the managers from back then are still in post) has changed this.

To conclude, I would say to councillors (but not to the so-called "Executive Committee"), if it really does come down to money in the end (obviously very undecided at this point), do not fear a confidence vote in the Leader and the "Executive", since I doubt they have the confidence of the public either. And do not fear a referendum on raising the council tax by more than 5%. The willingness to go to this step will be an essential part of gaining some modicum of government support, and a well argued, open and candid case, following on from a proper disposal of the elements of the past that brought us to that point, will win the right result.

A final question, for both councillors and the local MPs, is this. Is NNC providing the public with Best Value, in the sense that led to the Secretary of State to initiate the Caller Report? Because if it isn't, it would be better for all concerned, the public, the social services clients, even the council itself, to bring on a "Caller 2" now, before the worst of the damage has happened, than later, when matters for all may well be incalculably worse.

Expand full comment

If Philip Hollobone is being ignored by the Conservatives in government then he could resign the Tory whip.

I guess he would be displeased about the suggestions that a Swiss style relationship with the EU is under consideration so do they deserve his loyal support?

Expand full comment

It's not so much over-spending as under-funding. The costs of placements is a factor, but there is little possible control on this. It's been going on for years and it isn't going away. The alternatives are also potentially expensive too. So just stop whinging. Protect children by investing in the service with appropriate and necessary funding.

Expand full comment