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Issue:- 25 November 2010

Liverpool’s social care is ‘excellent’

ADULT social care in Liverpool has again been graded ‘excellent’ by the government’s independent regulator.

The council has been scored as ‘excellent’ in five out of seven judgment areas by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), while in two others it is graded as performing ‘well’.

It places the city council in the top 24 percent of local authorities nationally.

The 27 page report praises the council’s work in preventing admissions to hospital and reducing delayed discharges.

It also highlights plans to create new health and wellbeing centres across the city that will help people back on their feet so they can continue to live independently after being in hospital.

The document says the city council has “strong leadership, clear strategic direction and effective resource management” and that “councillors and senior managers have a clear vision for social care” and “lead people in transforming services to achieve better outcomes for people”.

Councillor Roz Gladden, cabinet member for adult health and social care, said:- “We have continued to build on the progress that has been made in transforming social care over the last few years.  I am delighted with this report and it demonstrates that we continue to rank among the best local authorities in the country.   We are giving more and more people a choice over what they want and how they get their care.   Our plans to transform day services by creating six health and wellbeing centres across the city will further extend the range and quality of support we can offer.”

The local authority has been graded as excellent for:

Improved health and emotional wellbeing – For helping support people to live independently and reducing the number of people needing care or treatment in hospitals or care homes. Examples highlighted include reducing the number of smokers from 35 percent to 28 percent since 2005, reducing delayed discharge from hospital and developing plans for new health and wellbeing centres

Improved quality of life – For making sure people who use services and their carers “enjoy the best possible quality of life” and feel safe when they are supported at home, in care homes and their neighbourhood

Making a positive contribution – For giving people the opportunity to contribute to the design, delivery and evaluation of services such as the proposals for new health and wellbeing centres, and supporting voluntary organisations

Freedom from discrimination and harassment – For making sure that people have fair access to services and their entitlements to health and care services are upheld

Economic well being – For the work of the Benefits Maximisation Team to help people claim money they are entitled to, providing financial advice to people who fund their own care and helping people find work and maintaining it

The council has been graded as performing well in the areas of:-

► Increased choice and control – For getting over 2,000 people to sign up to manage their own social care budgets, improving the quality of public information and reducing the number of complaints and the speed with which they are resolved

► Maintaining personal dignity and respect – For supporting carers and their families and actively monitoring the quality of care provided by organisations that the council commissions

Stuart Smith, director of children, family and adult services, added:- “I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those who work in our care services, who are absolutely key to this fantastic report.  Every day they go above and beyond the call of duty helping improve life for our most vulnerable residents, and this report is a reflection of their hard work.”

The report says that the council's capacity for further improvement is supported by an “ambitious” vision but that strong and effective management action over finances will be crucial.

Don’t kill off high street trade through parking charge hikes

COUNCILS could kill off high street trade if they hike town centre parking charges, a small business support organisation has warned. In recent months, local authorities across the UK have proposed hefty increases in the charges they impose on motorists for parking on streets and in council-owned car parks. Areas affected include Burnley, Nottingham, Shrewsbury and Cornwall, and in some cases, increases of 150% have been tabled by town halls. The councils involved claim the hikes are necessary in order to plug shortfalls in their budgets due to widespread cuts in local government funding. However, the Forum of Private Business believes raising the rates could put small firms out of business as shoppers are driven away from the high street and towards out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks, which enjoy ample free parking. The not-for-profit support organisation has also pointed out that the move will hit small traders at a time when they are facing the prospect of a potentially damaging downturn in trade next year, due to the forthcoming VAT rise.

The Forum’s head of campaigns, Jane Bennett, said:- “Simply putting up parking charges might seem like an easy and convenient way for local authorities to plug their budget shortfalls. However, it could well prove to be a false economy as it will drive even more trade out of town centres, leading to more empty units, fewer visitors and lower amounts raised through business rates. High street traders are already very anxious about January’s VAT rise. By putting up parking charges – by as much as 150% in some cases – these councils will give people another incentive to shun their independent local shops in favour of identikit out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks. If these councils are so desperate for money, perhaps they should concentrate on raising more revenue from the multi-national chain stores on their patches, rather than the small firms which are often struggling to survive.”

Miss Bennett added:- “Around the UK, many forward-thinking town halls have deliberately kept their parking charges down – or even kept parking free altogether – in order to boost trade. They have been rewarded with thriving town centres, full of varied and unique shops. We would urge the councils who are proposing to push up their parking prices to think again and follow this example instead.”

Forum member Martin Phillips runs specialists gift shop Kudos in the Cornish town of St Ives, which is facing hefty increases in parking charges. The proposals have been put forward by Cornwall County Council, which claims the hike in necessary in order to preserve local services. But Mr Phillips believes the move will simply drive shoppers away from the town centre and towards supermarkets and retail parks instead. He said:- “This is a completely misguided and short-sighted idea from the county council and it has made a lot of people very angry. The council may be feeling the pinch from funding cuts but it should consider what’s happening to the high street already. The situation is pretty desperate and it’s only going to get worse when VAT goes up in the New Year. There’s no doubt about it – it will drive people out of St Ives and they will use nearby supermarkets and retail parks, where there’s plenty of free parking. If the council is facing such a serious shortage of money, perhaps it should consider raising extra revenue from the big businesses which are making millions upon millions in profit each year, rather than putting extra pressure on struggling small business owners.”

The Forum has previously campaigned against the Workplace Parking Levy, which was initially introduced by Nottingham City Council but could now be implemented by other authorities around the UK. The scheme involves charging town and city-centre businesses for parking spaces they provide for their staff.

In Nottingham, it will supposedly pay for transport infrastructure improvements, but the Forum has argued that smaller firms can ill-afford yet another hefty tax in order to subsidise the incomes of their local councils.

Sefton is planning to make all car parking areas chargeable, so this could also heavily affect are area. Already Formby has been badly affected by charges and the only free car parking has been limited to 1 to 2 hours in the village centre. Southport has also been heavily hit by charges. That means 2011 might be even harder for shoppers and shop owners in Sefton, but on the bright side, we will not be alone!  So please email our newsroom to with your views on this issue and let us know what you think!

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