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Local Involvement Networks

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

2. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Health on mechanisms to ensure that local authorities with social care responsibilities use funding allocated for local involvement networks for that purpose. (248940)

Health Ministers and we agree that it is for local authorities to decide how to use the funding that we have given them for local involvement networks. However, they have a clear legal duty to establish LINks and to support their work.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, does he agree that, although it may be for local authorities to make those decisions, they are not all doing so with equal expedition and efficiency? Some networks remain to be set up, and some local authorities are providing an excellent service such as that in Norfolk while others are charging whacking great management fees yet not providing an adequate service. Does he think that there is a role for central Government in taking another look at this?

I think that I was clear in my first answer that having provided £84 million from the Department of Health in order for local authorities to be responsible for ensuring that LINks are set up locally to give service users, residents and citizens a greater influence over health and social care services, it is right to let them get on and do that job. Every LINk will have to produce an annual report to the Secretary of State for Health. That annual report will have to identify how much money it is receiving, so if any local authority were tempted to take a slice as a management fee, that practice would become clear—and, I am sure, be discouraged—as LINks get up and running fully.

Why is it taking so long to set up LINks, to follow on from the point made by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon)? In Lancashire, we have been without any patient representation for more than a year now, and the nascent, embryonic LINk is going out to consultation again. Why can Lancashire county council and the Government not just talk about the problems that are delaying the formation of this important new body?

The first thing to say is that LINks were established only last year through the Local Government and Public Involvement act in Health Act 2007. Money was available for local authorities to start their work in ensuring that those were set up properly from April last year. Every local authority has a clear legal duty to ensure that they are established. If my hon. Friend feels that his local authority is falling short in that legal duty, I encourage him to let me have the details, and I and my hon. Friends in the Department of Health will look into the matter.