HC Deb 14 May 1985 vol 79 cc159-60
5. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about personal social services in Nottinghamshire.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

In Nottinghamshire, as with every other local authority having a social services department, the provision of personal social services is a matter for the local authority to decide, taking into account its statutory duties, local circumstances and its priorities.

Mr. Ashton

Exactly. Will the Minister take note of the local election results 10 days ago, when my constituents showed that they were delighted with what the Labour-controlled county council was doing for them? They voted on a basis that would have increased my majority from 3,000 to almost 11,000, and the Labour party would have won back three seats in the city of Nottingham and in Sherwood. Does the Minister accept that if he continues with his plans to remove earnings-related pensions, maternity grants and death grants, that trend will sweep the country and his party will be out of office?

Mr. Clarke

My recollection is that the net loss to the Labour party in Nottinghamshire in the local elections was about six seats. Matters may have been all right at the hon. Gentleman's end of the county, but the Labour party is now almost extinct at my end of the county, and it lost seats in Nottingham and in Gedling. There is no doubt that the social services in Nottinghamshire have greatly advanced during the past five or six years, despite the allegations of so-called Tory cuts. I hope that the electorate in Nottinghamshire will ensure that they get proper value for money from the increased expenditure that the county council is incurring.

Mr. Lester

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take note of the fact that in constituencies covered by the same county council we actually won seats back from Labour, so presumably the same criteria apply? Will my hon. Friend also take note of the extensive and worthwhile review by the Nottinghamshire social services committee on the position of the mentally ill? There is a great deal of concern that the community care policy, which both he and I support, should be carried out in the most intelligent and sensible way, and that there should be adequate provision by the social services in Nottinghamshire for those who would be better off in community care than in institutions.

Mr. Clarke

I accept what my hon. Friend says. There is considerable commitment to the idea of moving over to a community-based service in Nottinghamshire. It is vital to have the right level of community services in place as the patients are transferred from hospitals, and that will require a high level of co-operation between the health authority and the county council. We have to ensure that that co-operation is forthcoming, regardless of political control, over the next two or three years.

Mr. Alexander

I point out to my right hon. and learned Friend and to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) that more than three quarters of the spending on social services in Nottinghamshire goes on wages for its employees. I remind him that for one administrato—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should be asking questions of the Minister.

Mr. Alexander

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in Nottinghamshire the social services are spending the money for one administrator per 1,995 people, whereas in the rest of the country the figure is one administrator for nearly 1,000 people more?

Mr. Clarke

The background in Nottinghamshire is not one of cuts. In the past five years, spending on social services has gone up by one quarter over the rise in prices. Nottinghamshire, rather more than most shire counties, has to ensure at least that amount of added service and value to the community. Administrative costs are high there compared with most other Conservative-controlled county councils.