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20.02.17

Social care still at risk despite nearly all councils raising tax

A total of 147 of England’s 151 authorities responsible for social care are thought to be considering or have approved a council tax rise of 1.99% to fund the UK’s failing social care system – but this will not be enough to save a system in desperate need of central government funding, local leaders claim.

In a statement released today by the LGA, it was reported that the rise in council tax would bring in a combined social care income of £543m a year councils, a figure which is expected to be “swallowed up” by the £600m cost to councils of paying for the government’s National Living Wage.

The LGA said this will inevitably lead to more cut backs of publicly-funded social care services as councils are forced to divert money from other services, such as filling pot holes and running children’s centres and libraries, to plug the growing social care funding gap.

The new measures designed to raise income to pay for social care services would allow councils to raise tax by up to 1.99% to a total of 4.99% without the need for a referendum, with the additional funding to go towards paying for social care services.

But the LGA warned that the change in council tax levels will not do enough to save a system which is at “breaking point”, as it called for the government to use the Local Government Finance Settlement this month to provide new money for social care services

LGA chairman Lord Porter said: “Services supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities are at breaking point and many councils are increasingly unable to turn down the chance to raise desperately-needed money for social care and other local services next year.  

“But extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care both now and in the future and the social care precept raises different amounts of money in different parts of the country.”

Lord Porter also emphasised that the expected £2.6bn social care funding gap that local governments will face by 2020 cannot be left to council tax payers to fix.

He went on to say: “Without genuinely new additional government funding for social care, vulnerable people face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve.

“This is not only worse for our loved ones but will also heap further pressure and wasted expense on the NHS.”

The statement also warned that unexpected New Homes Bonus reductions have to be reversed to protect hundreds of councils from having to find millions more in savings to plug funding gaps in 2017-18.

A DCLG spokesman said: “Whilst local authorities – like all public bodies – have had to find efficiency savings, our historic four-year funding settlement gives them the certainty they need to plan ahead with almost £200bn available to provide the services that local people want.

“By the end of this Parliament, councils will be able to keep 100% of local taxes. We’ve also announced an additional £900m for social care, meaning councils will have £7.6bn of dedicated funding to spend over the next four years.”

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