‘What we talk about is what we care about’; a maxim that is fraught with inaccuracies but nonetheless can prove fairly helpful when understanding the priorities of your manager, your organisation or even your Government.
I was reflecting on this over the weekend whilst listening to the on-going debates about changes to the benefits system. These are massive changes and worthy of debate but I am left wondering why these have become the leading headlines whilst the equally, if not more, significant changes happening to the health service are hardly mentioned.
Whilst it is true that the Government have felt the need to respond to opposition attacks on benefits it is equally true that there has been next to no official comment or publicity surrounding the changes. I find this rather strange; so strange in fact that I decided to do a little research.
Question 1: How many speeches have DoH ministers made about the changes to the NHS in the past six months?
I did a quick search on the newly designed DoH website and despite some interesting speeches including topics such as ‘’ (16/3/13), ‘’ (12/2/13), ‘From notepad to iPad: technology and the NHS’ (16/1/13) there was nothing this year about the NHS transition.
Question 2: Ok, so what about news stories?
In case you didn’t know, when Gareth and I took the decision to return to We Love Local Government we also took the decision to do something we had been talking about doing for ages – record a podcast (which you should really have a listen to). The idea is that it will look at the world of local government in the same way as our blog posts, but simply in an audio form. So far, so easy.
Well, there’s an old adage that any place easy to get to is not worth the journey (or something like that) and we are discovering that podcasting in particular is nowhere near as easy as it looks. As this is something which some local authorities are (hopefully) beginning to look into I thought I’d share some of the very early lessons I’ve learnt so far.
1. It’s not as easy as you think. What can be hard about having a conversation and hitting the record button at the same time? Well, it’s not as easy as that at all. There are the logistics of recording itself, the planning of the discussions, the speaking of the words and the editing, each stage of which is made up of loads of little challenges along the way. My respect for slick podcasters the world over has risen several notches.
This is our first post in April and with the general obsession in the public sector to implement EVERYTHING on the 1st April, despite the fact that this is the busiest time of the year for many, there is a lot to talk about.
However, despite wanting to write a lengthy piece about the transition of public health to local government (you could listen to our podcast for that if you wanted… Hint hint!) this piece is about a far less wholesome topic; best summed up by this Joseph Rowntree Foundation headline:
Two Million Poor Families Facing Tax Hike
For those not familiar with this issue the introduction of Council Tax Support (instead of Council Tax Benefit) is the latest in the ‘localism with strings attached’ policy toolkit from the DCLG. As the New Policy Institute explain:
From April 2013 Council Tax Benefit (CTB) will be abolished and replaced by Council Tax Support (CTS). As part of the reform English local authorities have to devise their own schemes of CTS. This means a move from one national system to 326 local schemes in England alone.
All councils will have 10% less funding for CTS than they did under CTB. They are required by central government to provide the same level of support to pensioners as under CTB so any cut in support falls entirely on working-age recipients.
I am interested in this question because politicians don’t tend to, as a rule, increase taxes on the poor (see this year’s budget and the debate and statements that followed for evidence).So this decision would appear, on the face of it to be a policy aberration and I think it is worth spending a little time understanding why that might be the case. Of course it is possible that this is not an aberration at all but that would make the following article less interesting so stick with me here.