Dan Peters 17 June 2020

Combined authority 'spending reserves like it's going out of fashion'

Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s chief executive has expressed doubts about whether his region would be able to cope with a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Giving evidence to the Public Services Committee, Eamonn Boylan, admitted he was not confident his authority would have the resources.

Mr Boylan said he had been forced to spend reserves ‘like it’s going out of fashion’ and they would not be there to spend again.

He also used his appearance in front of peers to highlight the ‘weaknesses and barriers’ between national and local government and said the pandemic had accentuated frustrations with the way Whitehall works.

Mr Boylan continued: ‘National government - despite its best efforts – still works in departmental silos and within departments in individual silos.

'One of the things that the pandemic has shown is that it really makes little sense to try to deliver local services from a national level because local agencies are much better equipped to co-ordinate, to bring together both public and voluntary and private sector players in communities in order to deliver.

‘I think the services to the shielded cohort would have been much better managed if they’d been dealt with that way from the start.

'We didn’t manage to land a clear message about the extent and depth of expertise that exists at a local level.’

Mr Boylan gave the example of directors of adult social care who he said were ‘not consulted at all’ about the Government guidance on discharging hospital patients.

Also giving evidence, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, said her members had been ignored until the last few weeks.

She said: ‘Certainly in the beginning [there was] a really poor understanding and recognition of the role of the director of public health and the local public health system and, indeed, local government as a key partner in managing this pandemic.

'Communication between central and local wasn’t there in the early days.

‘Although I think we are now much more part of informing and giving our perspective to shape some of government policy, the lens is still very much national.

'The understanding of how things land locally could still be developed.’

Dr de Gruchy continued: ‘Directors of public health along with a lot of our other colleagues in local government and the local NHS have spent an inordinate amount of time knitting together what comes down in reasonably siloed ways and then we really need to make it work for our populations locally.

‘If you don’t know that directors of public health exist or what our role is you’re not going to communicate with us.

'Certainly, the first few weeks we got nothing really directly communicated to us.’

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