Town Hall under fire for not passing on complaints cash to watchdog

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

WIGAN Council has been criticised for failing to pass on thousands of pounds allocated by central government to for NHS complaints advocacy.

Figures released by health consumer watchdog Healthwatch England under the Freedom of Information Act show that Wigan was one of 13 councils across the UK which has not funded it to the tune of £50,000.

We have to decide what is the best way to spend our reduced resources for the benefit of our communities and as a Labour-controlled authority we will not be dictated to on priorities by a Conservative-led central government

Coun Paul Kenny

But the local authority says that that money doesn’t necessarily have to be spent in such a way and that, despite cuts, it puts plenty other funds into health-related services, including advocacy services.

A total of £14.2m was allocated to local authorities for locals free and independent services that can help people make a complaint about a National Health Service.

Healthwatch England asked each town hall how much of their share was spent in the last two years and it showed Wigan had not passed on £50,000 of its share.

The watchdog released its findings with the Health Service Journal and Katherine Rake, chief executive of Healthwatch England, urged councils to rethink the amount they spent on complaints advocacy.

She said: “Considering the relatively modest amounts being invested in complaints support nation-wide, Healthwatch England is calling on commissioners to ensure they fully consider the resourcing necessary for a well-publicised and easy to use complaints support service.”

However a Wigan Council spokesman defended the spending explaining how the grant was “non-ring-fenced”, meaning that the government indicates what the grant is for but the council can choose what it spends the money on.

The council also says that its overall investment in health-related services, which includes the complaints advocacy service, exceeds grant support from the government.

Coun Paul Kenny, Wigan Council’s portfolio holder for resources, said: “The council’s policy in dealing with the 40 per cent cuts in our grant funding has been to pool all non-ring-fenced grants and spend them on our priorities.

“This means that in some cases not all the ring-fenced grant is spent in the area indicated by the government.

“We have to decide what is the best way to spend our reduced resources for the benefit of our communities and as a Labour-controlled authority we will not be dictated to on priorities by a Conservative-led central government.”