Councils joining the government’s £3.8bn health and social care integration drive will be expected to enforce “substantial” cuts to their back office budgets, a local government minister has said.

In an interview with HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle, Liberal Democrat Stephen Williams for the first time directly linked the Department of Health’s integration transformation fund with job cuts in local government.

Council staff structures were “unwieldy”, irrational and should be restructured by council leaders and chief executives as they fused health and social care, the minister indicated.

“It is fairly obvious that if you were running a local authority as a business, you wouldn’t allocate the human resources in the way they are currently allocated. You could deliver top quality services to people and organise your services in a different way,” Mr Williams told LGC.

“It is up to the ministerial team to explain why we should do these things and make sure the impact of austerity is not felt by service users,” Mr Williams said.

“If you get health and social services working together with £3.8bn of integration funding that should deliver substantial savings towards meeting their budgetary obligations.”

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of both Portsmouth City Council and the Local Government Association’s Liberal Democrat group, said savings made with health and social care integration were unlikely to meet soaring demand for services.