Local authority leaders today warned council tax rises are unlikely to prevent the need for continued cutbacks to social care services.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and dozens of charities argued council tax rises to pay for social care in 2016/17 will not bring in enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on services caring for elderly and disabled people.
In last November’s Spending Review the Government announced England's 152 social care councils would be able to increase council tax by up to 2% in order to pay for care. It also announced an increase of £1.5bn in the Better Care Fund.
This would be in addition to already existing powers to raise council tax by up to 1.99% without the need for a referendum.
According to an analysis carried out by the LGA, 143 of the 152 councils are considering or have approved introducing the extra social care precept — a move that will raise £372m.
The majority of this extra £372m will, however, be spent covering the cost of introducing the government's National Living Wage from April.
The LGA has estimated it will cost England's 152 social care authorities at least £330m to cover increased costs to home care and residential care providers in 2016/17.
This has prompted council leaders to call on the chancellor George Osborne to use his budget next month to bring forward the £700m of new funding earmarked for social care through the Better Care Fund by the end of the decade to 2016/17.
Cllr Nick Forbes, LGA vice chair, said: ‘The Government expects local authorities to raise council tax by nearly 4% next year, including a 2% precept to pay for under pressure social care services.
‘With no council tax freeze grant next year, a government funding settlement that assumes council tax increases and growing funding pressures, many councils feel they have no choice left but to put up council tax.’
‘After years of striving to keep council tax as low as possible or frozen,’ Cllr Forbes continued, ‘town halls find themselves having no choice but to ask residents to pay more council tax over the next few years to offset some of the spiralling costs of social care in 2016/17.’
Cllr Forbes also warned that, despite having to pay more council tax, residents could see a decline in the quality and quantity of services in their areas because a lack of sufficient funding.
‘Councils will continue to do all they can to maintain the services that older and vulnerable people rely on but services supporting the elderly and disabled are at breaking point. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix them,’ he added.
Responding to the LGA’s warnings, Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: ‘In the Spending Review, the Chancellor recognised the untenable position of adult social care budgets that have faced £4.6bn of cuts in the last five years - but the additional funding coming forward will not only be too little, it will arrive too late.
‘While by no means a complete solution, bringing forward the new funding currently planned for the end of this parliament would go some way to alleviating this immediate pressure.’
Visit The MJ (£) for their exclusive story on why adult social care is the biggest short and long-term pressure for council chiefs.