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LGC LETTERS PAGE

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Single status - strange bedfellows ...
Single status - strange bedfellows
Charles Nolda,Executive director, Employers' Organisation.
It is wrong to equate recruitment and retention difficulties with the single status initiative (LGC, 16 February). Single status is intended to be locally applied to fit local circumstances and provide the means for local solutions. The effective use of job evaluation goes a long way to alleviate local problems rather than exacerbate them.
In the early days, one of the major problems cited with use of the job evaluation scheme was the relative rise in wages for staff in areas such as social services which now have recruitment and retention difficulties. There are no inherent contradictions between single status and the use of special measures such as market supplements where they are needed.
There is no need to exaggerate the recruitment and retention difficulties which are occupationally and regionally concentrated. In large parts of the country local government rates for support staff compete very well in the market, despite what the unions may like us to think.

-Balancing Act
Gordon Keymer, leader, Local Government Association Conservative group.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives is quite right to point out the risk of workload imbalance between executive and non-executive members under new political structures (LGC, 16 February).
It is becoming clear many councils where modernisation has been tried, have experienced just the sort of difficulty highlighted by the report. Many backbenchers are left feeling devoid of influence.
But while SOLACE has pinpointed the problem it has come up with the wrong answer. The solution is to allow councils more flexibility to design structures which give all councillors a role in the decision-making process.
By suggesting a reduction in the number of councillors, SOLACE has played into the hands of the government. Fewer councillors is an attractive proposition to the government since it is then a short step to reducing the number of councils, with yet more opportunities for centralisation.
-United we stand
Christine May, leader (Lab), Fife Council.
It is all too easy for individual councils to forget the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities achievements - a power of community initiative, a three-year finance settlement, the end of expenditure guidelines and a much improved best value regime.
These are tangible benefits achieved through an organisation whose costs reflect just 3% of local government expenditure.
Are some of my colleagues seriously saying we want to leave policy development to the Executive and not seek to influence it collectively? Are they saying the policy work should simply stop?
If COSLA is weakened, so will the whole of Scottish local government and, inevitably, individual councils.

-Take care of business
Chris Frayne-Johnson, Stevenage.
I would suggest independent care home owners take their heads out of the sand rather than social services departments, and listen to older people (LGC, 6 January).
Older people are increasingly choosing to remain in their homes for as long as is safely possible. Failing that, they are expressing the wish to move into non-institutional care such as sheltered housing, where their independence can be supported.
Social services are expected to listen to older people's wishes, opinions and choices, and provide services to meet them. There are clear messages that the choice is to remain in their homes, or in a homely setting where possible.
Care home providers should listen and adapt their businesses to meet changing customer needs and choices. A little less caring for business and more concentration on the business of caring might not go amiss by the those bemoaning the loss of profits.

-Sick scrutiny
Elizabeth Manero, chair, London Health Link.
Five London boroughs have voted against the government's proposals on health scrutiny. But debate about this aspect of the proposals has lacked any real depth.
At present councils have the power to nominate up to 12 councillors to community health councils - half the membership. The scrutiny power of the CHC extends to any aspect of the NHS they choose, barring GP-owned premises.
Under the Health and Social Care Bill, the secretary of state will restrict the areas of the NHS the council can scrutinise, as well as the information the NHS is required to provide.
Unlike the current unfettered power, the power of a council to refer major changes to the secretary of state will be subject to criteria set by the secretary of state.
The power of scrutiny is shrinking as it transfers. Health council members abide by a code of conduct requiring political impartiality, but the public will never know to what extent the whip has influenced a decision.
Let there be no illusions about just how limited councillors' role in health scrutiny will be.

-Surrey suffers
Richard Fairgrieve, director of community services,Spelthorne BC
Members of Spelthorne BC's executive will be making their views clear to the Government Office for the South East about plans to dramatically increase the number of houses in the south east.
The draft revised regional planning guidance suggests an annual average rate of 39,000 dwellings per year to 2006, of which Surrey's share is 2,360 per year.
After 2006, this annual figure is expected to rise to 43,000.
Councillors believe the new figures take no account of Surrey's capacity. The county council says it can only accommodate a maximum of 35,000 homes - the original figure proposed by SERPLAN. They say more development would lead to the loss of green belt and the deterioration in the quality of life in the towns.
In its response to the latest consultation, Spelthorne will point out the lack of policy guidance on affordable housing, particularly for public sector key workers.

-Monster mistake
David Fielding, director of personnel, National Lottery Charities Board
Iwas amused to be referred to as the 'New crouching dragon' (LGC, 16 February).
Rodney Brooke described me as the former deputy director of human resources at Southwark LBC. I suspect all south London boroughs look similar when viewed from
Ilkley.
Just as the dragon is a mythical figure, so too was my supposed time at
Southwark. I was in fact at Lewisham LBC, which as they say, is the 'best place to live, work, learn . . . and slay'.

-On the record
Howard Knight, head, Labour Party Local Government Unit.
Just for the record, I did not 'resign just days before Labour's Spring Conference' (LGC, 16 February).
Last year I informally intimated the likelihood that I would be taking up other challenges in 2001 and, several weeks ago, I gave formal notice of my departure.
An announcement was to have been made when I had concluded discussions - still not completed - about my resignation date. The information was leaked and gave rise to some interesting, but fanciful, reporting.
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