Financial pressures from children's services and adult social care for local councils

New data reveals councils’ biggest financial pressure

Councils are calling for reform and an honest discussion on what they can deliver as new data shows the huge financial burden of care services on local authorities.

Compared to a decade ago, councils are spending £212 more per person on children’s services and adult social care, according to the County Councils Network (CCN).

A combination of increased demand and rising costs mean other services like libraries, road repairs, street lighting, and park maintenance are suffering.

The cost of children’s services has seen the most dramatic increase, rising 77% over the past decade and accounting for 23% of council spending – the latter figure was closer to 18% in 2014. Adult social care spending has risen by 48% per person since 2014.

For the 37 upper-tier councils in country areas who are CCN members, children’s services and adult social care can take up three-quarters of the budget. For the average local authority, they consume 69% of budget – up from 63% 10 years ago.

The CCN says that, with the real-terms funding reductions from 2025/26, even the most well-run and efficient councils will be at risk.

“…the next government should also undertake an ambitious reform programme…”

The CCN wants all the main political parties to join together in an open discussion of what council performance can realistically look like if funding squeezes are to continue.

Alongside this, the CCN is also calling for the next government to set out a comprehensive set of reforms to address the demand and costs of children’s services.

This would include revisiting the marketplace in children’s services, as well as a cap on what private providers can charge for residential placements for children in care.

“This month’s Budget confirmed that the public finances remain extremely tight,” said Councillor Roger Gough, the CCN’s spokesperson for children’s services.

Roger, who is also the leader of Kent County Council, added: “Therefore we need to have an honest discussion with all main political parties as we head into the general election on what councils can reasonably be expected to deliver, in a climate where substantive extra funds are unlikely and both demand and costs are set to rise.

“In tandem with this, the next government should also undertake an ambitious reform programme to drive down costs in children’s services and social care, leaving no stone unturned.”

Image credit: iStock


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