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Districts ask to increase council tax by 2% to invest in prevention

District councils have today called on government to allow them to raise council tax by 2% to invest in prevention measures aimed at easing pressure on health and social care services.

Ahead of Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, the District Councils’ Network (DCN) has said that authorities need the ‘prevention precept’ to come into force to fund reforms such as improving leisure and recreational facilities, making houses better and tackling homelessness.

The organisation claims that raising tax by 2% could bring in £25m for district councils and would keep residents from needing access to social care and the NHS.

It estimates that for a Band D property in a district area, this tax rise would amount to about 7p more per week compared to the current council tax structure.

According to the DCN’s analysis, this rise would create considerable efficiencies for authorities, as for every £1 spent on prevention councils could see £70 worth of health savings.

This could be achieved through adapting 100,000 homes to meet the needs of older people, insulating homes better to avoid older people getting ill in winter, and investing in sport, leisure and recreation to improve public health in local communities.

Today’s calls follow research released by CIPFA last week that found that even though councils recognise the importance of preventive services to ease pressure on health and social care, only 15% expect to be able to invest the funds announced by the government in March in this area.

The Red Cross has also recently argued that councils are falling short of their obligations set out in the Care Act 2014 to “prevent, reduce or delay the need for care.”

“It is time the government recognised the important role district councils play in prevention and early intervention,” said Cllr John Fuller, chairman of the DCN. “We know that for everyone £1 spent, district councils can save the NHS up to £70, just by adapting homes to prevent falls, improving home insulation and heating or providing recreational and leisure services.

“A 2% prevention precept would go some way to reducing pressures on the social care system, by solving rather than managing problems, and allowing resources to be refocused on tackling problems one family at a time before they occur.

“Prevention is always better than cure. If we are to reduce pressures on the NHS and stop people from entering the social care system unnecessarily, districts council must be given the resources to invest in prevention.” 

The DCN’s suggestion comes as the LGA predicts councils will be facing an annual funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020.

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