Health boss: "Council are keeping money from us"

COUNCIL bosses have been accused of withholding more than £160,000 from Healthwatch Rotherham’s contract next year.

Local authorities are given cash to commission an organisation to gather views from the public and scrutinise health and social care.

Rotherham Borough Council has agreed to renew Healthwatch Rotherham’s deal for two years, with a £174,150 budget from April for 2017/18.

But Department of Health papers suggest the total allocated by Government - including through RMBC - should be more than £312,000.

Healthwatch Rotherham chief executive Tony Clabby said: “It appears that, because of the council’s budget pressures, they are keeping the money from us.

“We won’t be able to offer the same service that we are now. It wouldn’t be viable.

“A commercial business would turn round and walk away from this. We will have to look at cutting people’s contracts so they are part-time. I’d have to look at all our staff hours, including my own.”

He added: “A new contract does give us stability and we welcome that vote of confidence and the good things they have said about Healthwatch. I’m delighted they have shown faith in us.

“But it goes against the argument they are making to reduce the budget for us by this much.”

Guidance on funding allocations from the DoH in April said part of the Healthwatch cash comes from the Local Reform and Community Voices (LRCV) grant - “with the larger proportion” from within the local government settlement.

Healthwatch Rotherham’s allocation from LRCV for 2017/18 is £156,348, which should mean a total budget well over £300,000.

Mr Clabby said: “Demand for our service is rising. We held a very successful older people’s summit earlier this month where people were saying we should make it an annual thing. 

“We also save money for other health organisations, for example by dealing with complaints informally before they go to the next stage.

“The council cut our budget this year by ten per cent. I understand in these times that we all have to take a bit of a cut. 

“All I can do is present the figures which show what we should be entitled to for the budget.”

The two-year contract approved by the council’s lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers earlier this month (October) would see the budget drop further, to £156,735, in 2018/19.

Cllr David Roche, Cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “The LRCV grant is not just for Healthwatch. 

“It also has to cover two other statutory services: independent advocacy and the deprivation of liberty safeguards services. 

“The amount received is just £183,917, which is not enough to cover the support required for all three services, therefore the council has to top up this grant. 

“No confirmation has been received from Government of the budget allocation for 2017/18.”