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LGC letters

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Consult over housing

The government’s plans announced in the Queen’s Speech to build three million homes by 2020 puts local government back to square one in discussions over housing numbers.

No one opposes the ambition of building affordable homes for those unable to get on the housing ladder.

But what is of serious concern are the plans for the creation of new communities going against the wishes of local people and, crucially, being built without the infrastructure to support them or without them having the ability to thrive economically.

Legitimate concerns must also be raised over the role of the proposed homes and communities agency if local government is not to be bypassed altogether in the rush to achieve these targets.

We now run the risk of moving towards the effective centralisation of all major planning decisions akin to a command economy. Local communities and their representatives are in danger of being removed from having a say over the future shape and size of their own communities.

Lord Hanningfield (Con) Leader, Essex CC

Limit lorries on roads

Our country’s assets and wellbeing are not all based on growth in gross domestic product. Community capital equals economic, plus social, plus environmental factors.

The road freight industry is lobbying the government for longer and heavier vehicle limits. One would hope that highways authorities are counter-lobbying against this plan for safety and capacity reasons.

Aside from these issues on motorways and trunk roads, the increasing use of sat-nav has meant that lorries often end up travelling on completely unsuitable local roads with obvious resultant problems.

The government should be utilising the rail network more to reduce both road crowding and our country’s carbon footprint.

Are we telling them?

Steven Lugg Director, Hampshire Association of Local Councils

Looking for a cure

I read with interest the shadow health secretary’s opinion that ring-fencing is a necessity to achieve better outcomes in public health (LGC, 25 October).

Andrew Lansley makes a valid point regarding funding and primary care trusts (PCTs). As it stands, the situation is untenable. Public health directors already have difficulty finding sources of capital for PCTs and things are set to become more challenging.

At a time when localised community care is high on the agenda, with the proposals of Lord Darzi et al, directors need to recognise that PCTs will need more capital, as community care is set to develop further.

Take polyclinics for example. Each would house some 25 GPs from up to 10 practices, and in London will by 2017 deal with 50% of all outpatient treatment. They would be equipped with X-ray and ultrasound machines, thus allowing consultants to run services closer to the patient.

Directors are already finding it challenging; yet where will they find the additional funding to implement Lord Darzi’s vision?

A tenet of good financial management is to match payment with revenue. As payment by results becomes more widespread, it makes sense for NHS organisations to adopt flexible financing arrangements; allowing them to acquire critical assets, but to pay for them in regular amounts over a defined working period. Trusts cannot afford to have large amounts of capital tied up in rapidly depreciating assets.

By adopting a financial solution which allows the NHS to “pay as it benefits”, directors will run PCTs more efficiently and effectively and help taxpayers’ money go further.

David Martin General manager, public sector, Siemens Financial Services

Give business a vote

I would like to clarify the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) position in regard to business rate supplements (BRS) (LGC, 1 November).

Reflecting the concerns of businesses that are members of local chambers across the country, the BCC has been arguing for a business vote on any BRS proposals.

Rather than accepting the need for a business ballot in all circumstances, the government has proposed a complex formula designed to ensure that Crossrail gets the go-ahead with safeguards in terms of size of contribution and limits on rateable value. It is therefore unsurprising that a scheme specifically designed to work in London may not be a useful process for other areas of the country. The best solution would be for the government to ensure business gets a vote.

David Frost Director-general, British Chambers of Commerce

Diversify boards

That 86% of chairs are recruited by ‘word of mouth’ is an indictment to a sector which prides itself on representing and advocating for some of the most marginalised in our community (LGC, 1 November). It is no wonder that boards are stagnant in their progress to diversify if it recruits ‘people like us’.

In a survey, 70% of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations’ (ACEVO) members agreed or strongly agreed that improving governance should be a priority.

Performance of the board is also among the top concerns of chief executives. Only 40% of association members agreed that their board was effective in developing and reviewing strategy.

The sector must be resolute in its commitment to reform. Our Brooke inquiry into governance in the sector reports at the end of November. It will recommend open recruitment processes, a review of, governance arrangements and effective board appraisals are in place.

ACEVO will continue to advocate for improvements in the sector and support our members in running professional and transparent organisations.

Third sector organisations with robust systems of accountability and openness will carry more credibility with those whom they wish to benefit and influence.

Diversity in the boardroom adds a range of experience and opinion and true value to an organisation.

Stephen Bubb Chief executive officer, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations

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