Protecting Frontline Services

24th October 2017

For my constituents struggling to pay the bills, council tax and reliant on our local public services, it’s no longer acceptable to go on cutting frontline services, whilst spending so much on the (too often) high salaries, gold-plated pensions, and duplicating back office bureaucracies which soak up vast sums of our precious public money.

Currently in Norfolk we have:

-          1 County Council AND 7 District, Borough and City Councils. (NCC spend £23 million on administration alone)

-          5 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, and multiple NHS Trusts (including the ‘inadequate’ Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust) and the East of England Ambulance Service

-          Dozens of other quangos – all being given taxpayers’ money by government to spend on often fragmented services here.

Do we really need all of these different bodies?

I believe we are wasting too much precious money on back office administration, instead of ensuring that it reaches the frontline services we all need and cherish.

For example, we have recently seen how Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner rejected Norfolk Constabulary’s suggestion of a very sensible merger between the two counties’ control rooms, with the joint facility being situated in the new state of the art HQ at Wymondham. This would have saved 100 frontline officers.

Another example - last year, I requested that the senior NHS manager responsible for commissioning in the East come to my constituency office to discuss the causes of the pressure being put on GP surgeries in Dereham, and the surrounding area. Shockingly, they were not only late and hadn’t read any of the relevant papers, but were unable to answer even the most basic questions about our local NHS spending. This is clearly WRONG. And it needs to stop.

Government is putting more money into key services like Health, Education, Defence and Mental Health, but not enough is getting to the frontline. (To be fair to our local councils, their budgets have been cut by approximately 25% to help reduce the deficit - which is exactly why we need to slim back the back office admin).

Imagine if, instead of 8 councils, multiple NHS bodies and countless quangos, we had one or two organisations which had responsibility for ALL of the local services in our area – a One Stop Shop for all your housing, benefits, training, and environmental and occupational health needs. It would be a simpler system for people to negotiate and we could unlock huge savings for the frontline, to reinvest effectively.

This is now urgent. We cannot go on pouring precious taxpayers money into a system which spends it on itself before passing on an increasingly small amount to the frontline.

All of us need to have the courage to tackle this problem. And fast.