As an organisation that has public services at the forefront of our work, this week’s Spending Review was keenly anticipated at Socitm.
While not drawing a line under COVID, Spending Review 2021 (SR21) looks forward to a post-pandemic economic recovery. It aims to bring the UK’s borrowing under control and move towards a higher wage economy. Its focus is investing in strong public services, driving economic growth, leading the transition to net zero and supporting people and businesses.
Lying at the heart of these plans is the ambition to “level up”, by reducing regional inequality and enabling people to find rewarding work wherever they are in the UK. We have seen this ambition first-hand through our post-COVID recovery theme that has been central to our work this year.
There is notably an absence of any specific strategy or devolved funding for so-called ‘levelling-up.’ Socitm members and customers tell us that LAs and communities want to take the lead role in shaping and regenerating their places for the future, but any support must await a future white paper.
While we welcome the £37.8 million of additional funding over the SR21 period to tackle the cyber security challenges facing councils and for investment in local authority cyber resilience, there are also huge limitations and gaps.
The lack of investment in core technology infrastructure for the future, specifically digital identity and attribute exchange to embrace holistic place-based service design and delivery and the role of local government, continues to hold back the modernisation of public services.
Similarly, the lack of investment in place-based data science and analytics capability designed to achieve better targeting of resources locally to the vulnerable, to build resilience and sustainability, and to work toward net-zero is a significant omission.
Adult social care
Regarding Adult Social Care, there is no new money in the budget following on from the Care Cap and Adult Social Care reform monies (£3.6bn) announced last month. The reform implementation plans to meet the October 2023 deadline have yet to be agreed.
The announced £5.6 billion capital investment to the NHS to tackle the backlog of non-emergency procedures and modernise digital technology includes £938m for digital available through the Unified Tech Fund which was announced earlier in the year. Socitm has been engaging with a range of health and council organisations who would like to bid for some of this money, but the expectation is most will go to NHS projects and programmes. This feels like a missed opportunity.
Overall, we would add to the weight of other voices in saying any additional money for social care is welcome, but it is not enough to deal with the current pressures around staff recruitment & retention, skills, and additional staff costs like National Living Wage and National Insurance increases and other fixed running cost for providers.
The impact of reduced funding for social care since 2010 has not been addressed either. The new money is predicated on councils being able to increase council tax by 3%. For some this will be unpalatable, and for some the money realised will vary depending on the ability to pay within each council’s populations.
As a whole, Socitm concludes that this Spending Review does not go anywhere near far enough to resolve the policy impasse, resourcing and funding deficits needed to address the deep-seated inequalities and environmental problems facing communities across the UK These problems have been amplified during the pandemic and can only be addressed by concerted action and resources on the ground and by local authorities, partner organisations and communities being properly resourced and funded to work together to bring lasting change.
Socitm and Socitm Advisory are sister organisations with one common ambition; to drive innovation, and transformation in technology across the public sector.
Socitm is the society for innovation, technology and modernisation. It is the network for professionals who are shaping and delivering public services. Established for over 30 years, Socitm continues to challenge convention, inspire change and power progress.
Socitm Advisory implement best practice by offering a full suite of independent consultancy advice across the UK public sector. With more than 100 local authority clients, they are trusted, respected advisors to this sector, delivering lasting transformation.