22 January 2010

Denial is not just a river in Egypt

One of the reasons Southwark’s Lib Dems and Tories are failing to improve services in our borough is because they seem to have fostered a town hall culture which refuses to acknowledge poor performance. Both politicians and senior managers often appear incapable of admitting that some services are in urgent need of improvement.

When an independent inspectorate recently published a report on council services, Southwark’s reaction said more about them than they might have wished. The Oneplace report on Southwark was not exactly complementary. It ranked the council as the third worst in London and stated:

“. . . performance in adult social care and housing is not strong. The Council did not meet its decent homes target and has not identified all the resources to allow it to do so over the next two years. It is behind the pace on modernising its adult social care services to give people more choice over the services they receive.”

This is pretty damning stuff, but, in fairness, Southwark was not alone. 152 Oneplace reports have now been published and many local authorities have been forced to explain why some of their services are not up to scratch. The difference is, most other councils took the criticism on the chin and pledged to make improvements. Take a look at Waltham Forest’s reaction for example.

But not Lib Dem/Tory Southwark. They decided to accuse the Audit Commission of incompetence and damn the entire local government inspection regime as flawed. They also do a little spinning of the facts to make the various inspections appear contradictory. Chief Executive Annie Shepherd is quoted in numerous publications as saying “The Audit Commission says that we are one of the higher spenders in the country on adult social care, the Care Quality Commission says we are low spenders”, adding “they can’t both be right”. In fact, the Care Quality Commission did not say Southwark was a low spender on social care. What it did say was: “The proportion of council spend [in Southwark] directed to adult social care was in the lowest quartile nationally.”

As an inner London Authority, Southwark receives and spends more money than most council’s in the country on many of its services. The CQC is saying that the proportion of its gross expenditure on adult social care is lower than other councils. So there is no discrepancy between the two inspections, just a misrepresentation of their findings by Southwark council.

The important point behind all this is that we have a council in denial. Some senior officers and their Lib Dem and Tory masters would rather moan about the inspection regime than take its recommendations seriously. Vulnerable people receiving sub standard social care and council tenants in poor quality housing shouldn’t hold their breath in waiting for improvements whilst this remains the case.

As they say, the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one.

1 comment:

  1. The fundamental problem with Southwark Council is that is is no longer a Council. It's primary function is to raise money. It's secondary function is to keep itself in business. It's tertiary function is to be seen to be providing services for the community which funds it.

    Southwark Council as it exists at the moment will and can never provide the services it is required to. Abolishment of the "Council" is the only option in Southwark's case. No amount of pestering from our elected representatives will change the corrupt structures which have built up and which support it. Nor will any amount of complaints from those who are forced at all but gunpoint to pay them change their ways.

    The Council is so independent from the public that confronting them by writing letters, presenting them with damning reports from independent commissions, or having our elected representatives write blogs against them will only help them build their castle. Why would Southwark need to improve care services? - it has a captive audience.

    Have you done a Google news search for "Southwark Council"? The only good news relating to it is found on www.southwark.gov.uk, way down the list!