Announcing new measures aimed at boosting councils’ health and social care budgets –including an increase in the care precept – communities secretary Sajid Javid claimed the proposals would empower local authorities to deliver the services their communities need.
However, both Labour and the Lib Dems have condemned the proposals, arguing that they simply “pass the buck” to overstretched local authorities and council tax payers.
They have also dismissed the announcement of a £240m social care grant as “smoke and mirrors”, after ministers explained the money had been found through cuts to housing funds.
“Whilst we are glad that the Government has finally acknowledged that there is a deep and spiralling crisis in social care, this settlement does not offer any solutions,” said Shadow Communities Secretary Teresa Pearce.
“The council tax precept has already proven to be an inadequate and short-term sticking plaster for a problem which needs long-term answers. This will simply not meet existing need.
“Shifting the burden on to council tax payers creates a postcode lottery in social care services.
“The most deprived local authorities will be unable to raise the money they need through council tax. Wealthy areas will prosper whilst poor communities will struggle.”
The Government’s plans include giving councils the option to increase the new social care precept to 3 per cent over the next two years. Mr Javid told MPs today that this has the potential to raise an additional £652m by 2018/19.
He also unveiled a new £240m social care grant that will be allocated to local authorities next year. This will be funded through a reform of the New Homes Bonus, which is used to incentivise housing growth.
The former Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb described the proposals as a “truly feeble response to a national crisis”.
“This is an unfair way to raise additional money; it will increase inequalities between rich and poor areas. When will the Government come forward with plans to work genuinely across parties,” he asked.
Hull MP Diana Johnson estimated the precept increase will only bring in £700,000 for her local council – “just 12% of what Hull actually needs”.
“The Government are not giving Hull what it requires to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the country,” she said.
Today’s statement comes in response to growing concerns among councils and care providers about the mounting cost of adult social care.
Figures compiled by the Yorkshire Post show local authorities have set aside £ £1.4bn for social care this year – accounting for 39 per cent of their budgets.
This represents an eight percentage point increase on 2009/10, when just 31 per cent of the budget was allocated to care.
Commenting on the new measures, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said they fail to address “what is becoming one of the biggest problems facing this country”.
“It will have an unfair effect on more deprived areas and will benefit more affluent areas that collect more council tax,” she said. “More money has been promised to councils from 2019 in the Better Care Fund, and given the system is fast approaching crisis point, it’s unforgiveable that money wasn’t brought forward to next year.”