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Clegg concedes on board policy

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Liberal Democrat councillors could have secured a partial climb down from party leader Nick Clegg over proposals for local elected health boards that would be separate from councils.

Mr Clegg floated his idea during his leadership campaign, which has appeared in a policy paper due for debate at the party’s spring conference this weekend.

He argued that local control over health commissioning would break “the excessively centralised NHS”.
Senior councillors reacted angrily, with Richard Kemp, leader of the party’s Local Government Association group, predicting that health board elections would be contested between “the ‘colostomy party’ and the ‘liver disease party’”, while hampering joined-up local government (LGC, 17 January).

Under a compromise expected to be put to the conference, one-third of seats on local health boards would be reserved for councillors and there would be a stronger scrutiny powers.

Mr Clegg told a media briefing that health boards would have “strong representation” from councils. He said councils would be free to argue that they should control health directly, possibly by putting
this to a local referendum.

Mr Kemp said: “I can live with this compromise. It’s not the policy I would have written, but it ensures there will be strong representation from councils on these bodies.”

Former Islington LBC leader Steve Hitchins was expected to move a rival amendment that would give councils direct control of health commissioning.

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