NEWS

Council tax will fail to protect adult social care services this year

Council tax rises in 2019/20 will not generate enough funds to prevent the need for further cutbacks to the care that millions of older and disabled people rely on every day, the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed.

Local authorities are able to raise council tax by 2.99 per cent on an annual basis to fund local services without the need for a referendum.

Some social care authorities remain able to levy an extra social care precept of up to 2 per cent (up to 4.99 per cent in total with the general flexibility) this year. Income from the precept must be spent on adult social care services.

With town halls across the UK setting their final budgets and council tax levels, annual research by the LGA reveals:

  • 83 of England’s social care authorities are considering or have approved an adult social care precept in 2019/20 with 38 using the full 2 per cent precept available to them this year.
  • 67 social care councils (44 per cent) are unable to levy any more social care precept in 2019/20.

These adult social care precept rises will raise an extra £197 million in total to pay for adult social care services this year. The LGS is warning this is not even equivalent to the estimated £290 million cost to councils of paying for the increase in the Government’s National Living Wage this year.

The LGA has estimated that even if all councils used their council tax flexibilities to the maximum allowed, adult social care services still face a funding gap of at least £1 billion in 2019/20, just to maintain existing standards of care.

Councils will have to divert funding from other cherished local services – such as bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres – this year to try and protect adult social care services.

The LGA is calling for the Government to use its Spending Review to tackle the immediate adult social care funding gap and publish a comprehensive Green Paper on social care to find a truly long-term, sustainable funding solution to this adult social care crisis.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Adult social care provides vital support to millions of people every day but is at breaking point.

“Extra council tax income for adult social care has been helpful in recent years. For many that option has run out this year and the extra money the rest will raise will do little to prevent those who rely on services seeing the quality and quantity reduce.

“Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system. It has raised different amounts of money in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, and risked adding an extra financial burden on households.

“Investing in social care is the best way to keep people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community. This is not only good for our loved ones but is proven to alleviate pressure on the NHS.

“Plugging the immediate funding gap facing adult social care and finding a genuine long-term funding solution must therefore be an urgent priority for the Government.”

About the author

Tamara Birch