IF it wasn’t for the falling out from Boris Johnson’s decision – now approved by the Queen – to prorogue Parliament during the build-up to Brexit, the main political story would be next week’s hastily arranged spending settlement.
However the significance of Sajid Javid’s statement, his first as Chancellor, should not be under-estimated amid the growing tumult at Westminster.
As the likelihood of an early election grows by the hour as a result of Mr Johnson escalating the Government’s battle of wills with Parliament, Mr Javid has already said money will be made available for the NHS, schools and police.
It remains to be seen if this will be genuinely new funding – or the recycling of the many pledges made in recent months by Mr Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May.
But the fact that the spending settlement will only cover the next 12 months, and not three years as previously anticipated, points to this being little more than a pre-election push by the Tories. It does little to assist longer-term planning. And it is ominous that Mr Javid omitted to mention the words ‘social care’ in his lengthy article for a national newspaper in which he outlined how an abbreviated spending round will enable the Government to fully focus on Brexit.
This offers no reassurance to all those local authorities struggling to fund care provision – the County Councils Network now warns that some authorities will start decommissioning services unless Mr Javid provides £2.4bn of funding guarantees next Wednesday – or the 1.4 million elderly people who are said to be receiving inadequate support at present. The Prime Minister has pledged to prioritise social care – and work on a cross-party basis. Next week’s statement will be a very early test of the sincerity of this commitment – and whether Ministers understand the daily pressures facing the care sector in the real world.