Chancellor facing calls for £1.5bn social care cash injection

MPs argue the money is needed upfront to deal with the acute crisis in the sector
MPs argue the money is needed upfront to deal with the acute crisis in the sector
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The Chancellor is facing cross-party calls to use next week’s Budget to bring forward £1.5 billion in funding for adult social care, as MPs warn that estimates of the amount councils can raise through special precepts may be overly “optimistic”.

The new report from the Communities and Local Government committee adds to the already mounting pressure on ministers to provide a more drastic solution to the country’s social care crisis, as it claims that the Government’s recently announced £240 million emergency grant is not enough to address the “acute” pressures services are facing.

The committee instead urges the Treasury to expedite the delivery of its £1.5bn Better Care Fund – due to be allocated to local authorities between now and 2019/20 – to help local authorities plug the £1.3bn spending gap forecast for this year alone.

And it calls for a further commitment to cover the estimated £25bn funding black hole anticipated by the end of this Parliament, as it suggests councils are running out of options to make further efficiency savings.

The findings form the latest in a series of damning reports on the state of the UK health and social care system, with the Care and Support Alliance warning just yesterday that poor provision is increasing pressures on GPs and A&E units.

They also come as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn prepares to address a rally in London today, where he will call on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor Philip Hammond to “give the NHS and social care the funding it needs”.

A number of Yorkshire councils have already indicated they will make full use of powers to increase council tax by up to 3 percent in an effort to boost funding for local social care services.

They are also set to receive a share of a £240m adult social care grant that was announced in the autumn in response to growing pressure from MPs and campaigners.

However, the report warns that these measures will not be enough to provide a sustainable solution, as services face growing demand and additional costs resulting from policies such as the National Living Wage. It suggests the Government may have been “optimistic” in its estimate of how much the 3 percent social care precept will generate for councils, while the wage changes alone are set to increase 2017/18 costs by £382m.

It therefore calls for the £1.5bn promised by 2019/20 to be delivered up-front in next week’s Budget to meet the immediate “acute” challenges in the sector. And it urges Mr Hammond to commit to closing the funding gap “for the rest of the Parliament through to 2020”.

However, MPs on the committee stress that councils must also do their bit to make the case for the additional money. Chairman Clive Betts explained that unless councils opt for the maximum precept, arguments about the lack of central government funding are “weakened”.

“We’re simply saying that the Government have accepted the case for a 3 percent this year,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “If councils are saying that is not sufficient to bridge the gap, the least they can do is go for the 3 percent – that is then a better place to argument for extra Government funding.”

Fellow committee member and Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake said he hoped the recent improvement in the state of public finances has given the Treasury’ some “room for manoeuvre”. He also urged councils in Yorkshire to make the most of their precepting powers