Unison urges government to spend business rates windfall on social care

The government is due to gain a surplus £2.4bn in business rates next year, which it should reinvest in addressing the crisis in social care, Unison has said.

Social care is facing an estimated £2.3bn deficit by 2020. Recently, three health think tanks issued a report warning that councils could face legal action for failing to carry out their statutory responsibilities because of a lack of funding.

In a new report, ‘Investing in Social Care’, the union claimed that addressing the funding shortfall with surplus money from business rates would improve services for vulnerable people, ease the pressure on hospitals and ensure that care staff were paid the national living wage.

Since 2013, when the government introduced 50% business rates retention for local authorities, income from business rates has grown overall.

In 2013-14, central government’s share was £10.9bn and combined with income from businesses on the central rating list, but this wasn’t enough to cover the revenue support grant. However, by 2015-16, Unison noted that the amount had grown to £11.6bn, which is due to create a surplus.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the union, said social care was “in dire straits” and there was “simply not enough money” to fund care.

“Investing £2.4bn in social care would be money extremely well spent. Not only would it mean better care for the elderly, it would ease the pressure on homecare staff, and free up beds in the NHS,” he explained.

Unison added that allocating the excess money towards social care would allow the government to abolish the 2% council tax precept for social care, which isn’t enough to meet costs such as the national living wage.

Separately, Unison launched a series of adverts, encouraging members of the public to join its campaign to urge chancellor Philip Hammond to stop public sector cuts.

Prentis has also written to Hammond urging him to end public service job cuts, overturn the decision to abolish bursaries for student nurses, and end the 1% public sector pay cap.

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