Wednesday, February 24News For London

Shake-up of local healthcare as Brent Council tries to cut costs

The leaders of Brent Council have approved wide ranging changes to healthcare as part of a package to save £18.8m over the next three years.

Brent councillors and officials  approving the cuts at last night’s cabinet meeting. Credit: David Gregg

The measures were approved by the Labour controlled council yesterday at Brent Civic Centre. The local Conservative opposition described the cuts as: “premature, and not in the right areas.”

The council’s cost cutting measures include: closures of elderly day care centres, restructuring physical rehabilitation services, and a pan-London project to streamline access to sexual health services.

When combined with previously approved cost-cutting proposals of £28.3m, this means the council will save £47.1m over the next three years.

Labour councillors at the meeting were unanimous in condemning the Conservative government at Westminster for their situation.

They highlighted the fact their central funding will have dropped by 70 per cent between 2010 and 2020.

HEALTH CHANGES

Previously agreed cuts include £420,000 saved by encouraging elderly residents to move from home care to living in sheltered or supported accommodation. This will allow the council to spend less on residential nursing.

Cllr. Krupesh Hirani, the Labour councillor responsible for local health, pointed out that the council’s new integrated rehabilitation services would save the council money and, hopefully, deliver better care.

However, there was audible disappointment among the public gallery as he announced that the community rehab service would come from the private sector. 

He was also keen to stress that the London Sexual Health Transformation Project, involving 30 London boroughs, should make sexual health services cheaper for Brent, while allowing residents to get the most appropriate services for their needs.

Hirani did cause some consternation with his comment that: “symptomless patients did not need to be in clinic waiting rooms.”

His fellow councillors pointed out that many serious sexual transmitted illnesses did not cause symptoms including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

RAISING MONEY

The council is also looking at a variety of measures to raise revenues. There is a possibility of a four per cent increase in council tax, half of which must be ring-fenced for social care.

Plans are also in place to raise £1.99m from local residents in charges and fees.

Cllr. Mohammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, spoke of: “sweating our assets, including this very building.” The council plans to increase revenue through more advertising and sponsorship, hiring out Brent Civic Centre and selling WiFi access through lamppost based hotspots.

Cllr. John Warren is the leader of the ‘Brent Conservatives’, one of two rival Conservative groups on the council after a split last year.

He told Westminster World: “The Labour council is as usual scaremongering and over-the-top. We have previous reports that show we should fully expect better financial figures in 2017/18, just as we’ve had better figures this year than expected.

“This Labour council is, as usual, in denial about the fact local government should make any contribution to the overall deficit reduction plans. I’d rather see local government cut than see cuts to education or the NHS.”

The proposals will be referred to full Council in February for formal approval, but are very unlikely to be rejected.