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A few days ago I received a beautifully worded letter from my Internet Service Provider, written I’m sure by the PR department, explaining that our monthly charge would be increasing by £3.49 a month. The letter said ‘We know when prices go up it’s never welcome news’, but it then reassured me that in return for increasing my monthly charge they would be making my ‘…experience bigger and better than ever before’! The ‘new’ experience would now include ‘peace of mind’, ‘award winning services’ and ‘unlimited fun’. The list went on, but by then I’d read enough and the letter was winging its way into the recycling! Oh, and no need to do anything cause they’ll just help themselves to the extra £3.49 each month.

Yes, of course I can now shop around and switch providers to save a few quid each month, but I know that whoever I switch to I’ll receive a similar letter in a matter of months so what’s the point!

Not for the first time having received annual letters from my Internet Service Provider, telephone company and many others, I am reminded that very few, if any health and social care providers could write a similar letter to their Local Authority ‘customers’ and expect them just to pay it.

This the time of the year when many Chief Executives and their teams are knee deep in preparing their 2017/18 budgets. This year, for the first time in 20 years as a Chief Executive I won’t be faced with making impossible choices. For the first time in 20 years I won’t be chairing the annual ‘no one leaves the room until we get this budget to work’ meeting. For the first time in 20 years, my red and green pens will remain in my desk drawer. Every Chief Executive will want to pay their staff more and will build in a pay rise into next year’s budget. Whether they can deliver it or not will be debateable. Every Chief Executive will want to invest more in elective and developmental training for staff, but after meeting the mandatory training requirements, how far will the budget go? Managers will argue that they need more staff if they are to safely meet the needs of the service users or residents. Their requests will be scrutinised in the most minute of detail before being agreed to, or not! The increases in pension, National Living Wage and other costs will need to be met. Fee increase letters to private payers will be sent out, but with a recognition that similar letters to local authorities will not illicit the same response and the elephant in the corner of the room will sit there for another year. Chances are the 2% Council Tax precept for social care was not enough to meet the real increase in the NLW, especially for organisations that did right by their u25s and maintain the salary differentials within services between care and support staff, Seniors, Assistant Managers and of course Managers.

Once again, Chief Executives and their teams will make the numbers work, will continue to innovate, invest and deliver high quality care and support services. Letters to local authorities will be written explaining why fees have to go up. Perhaps offering to make the service user experience ‘…bigger and better than ever before’, offering ‘peace of mind’ and ‘unlimited fun’ might just tip the balance?

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