Two reports went before the county council’s cabinet yesterday which revealed the financial meltdown which the Labour-run authority claims means public services will no longer be able to meet the needs of Lancashire residents.
The council says national changes to the ways services will be offered means it can no longer “plan its future in isolation” and says it must now develop ”a future public service model for Lancashire” in conjunction with its partners.
A hard-hitting report states: “Lancashire County Council is not alone in this financial challenge. The whole of the public sector in Lancashire is facing severe financial conditions that give rise to fundamental questions as to the nature, scale and sustainability of public services in the county.”
The cabinet approved the appointment of independent consultants to assist in reviewing and developing the council’s “future business and operating model” as it faces “fundamental reconfiguration”.
Part of their role will be to prepare a report for the Communities and Local Government Minister and the Treasury on the minimum funding needed to provide legally required public services in the county and the emergency actions which would need to be taken if the council - which has given itself the highest level risk rating for its longer term financial viability - is not able to set a legal budget.
Council leader County Coun Jenny Mein and deputy Coun David Borrow stepped up their campaign for more funding by lobbying county MPs in London earlier this week.
Count Borrow said: “We need to get the Government to understand the level of resources we need in order to deliver statutory services.”
In addition the public expected other non statutory services which also came at a cost.
The council knows it must find ways of living within its diminishing means and meeting its legal obligations. It says the time has come to look outside for efficiencies working with other public service providers, with the proposed Combined Authority for Lancashire able to provide a context for consideration of public service “issues”.
It notes police, fire and rescue services, district and unitary councils all face cutbacks up to 2021.
Coun Mein will also use today’s meeting to unveil a vision of integrated health and care services across the whole of the county.
On central Government orders all parts of the country must by 2017 have a locally led plan for health and social care integration in place, ready to be put into action in 2020. In Lancashire this is being developed as the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainability and Transformation Plan. If acceptable it will open doors to special Government funding.
Coun Mein said: “I think it’s exciting. It’s a complete system change for all parties involved. Obviously it’s early days.”
She said the council was looking to see services integrated across the entire county and south Cumbria , adding: “The plan hasn’t been written yet. The call is out. I wait with interest the individual plans that are presented. We’ve talked about it for a long time..”
The five health economy areas identified to work together are :East Lancashire, Fylde Coast (including Blackpool), Morecambe Bay (including South Cumbria), Central Lancashire and West Lancashire.
Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen and Cumbria County Council, as well as NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Group would all join talks about pooling health and care budgets for pan-Lancashire services, with an emphasis on preventative care as well as treatment.