In deliberating how far Coventry City Council, Warwickshire CC and Solihull MBC can go in collaborative solutions for health and social care, we have arrived at an interesting point.
Essentially, our three trajectories are on broadly similar paths and we recognise the ‘big ticket’ solutions that would be secured by moving from three sets of operational models to one.
So one potential solution for services in learning disabilities, mental health, elderly dementia, autism and so on, begins to raise the question of what internal capacity we would need to consider to deal with critical events such as market failure.
Traditionally, the dominant ‘provider’ philosophy in all of us has brought about a ‘provider of last resort’ view of the world.
As we race to strip out costs, the question as to whether a single organisation at a local level will be able to sustain capacity raises its head.
I do not yet know what minimum capacity we would need to cover risk of failure, and I’m not convinced by free marketeering ideas that in some obscure way the ‘market will provide’.
We need to resolve what our intervention as a commissioner of last resort looks like and I suspect that doing it as three authorities offers a more reliable future resource.
Interestingly, this debate has also now gained momentum in the schools/colleges agenda. I don’t think it is in the child’s interest that we are passive at a local level in arguing that we no longer have a role in an academised, ‘local government-free’ world.
Again, a three-authority solution is attractive where collective resources afford us the capacity to champion children in a way that is different from that encouraged by previous school-local authority interfaces.
There is a responsibility on us to ensure market failure in this brave new world is tackled with an understanding that there is no one else who has the capability or authority to do so.
Free market non-interventionism will diminish public service offers to citizens.
Jim Graham, chief executive, Warwickshire CC