AN object lesson in how not to provide for the long-term is, once again, provided by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire – and his complacency over town hall funding.
He played down the social care crisis by pointing to the extra money made available by Ministers and how local authorities have been given extra discretion to raise council tax bills.
Yet, when householders receive higher bills on the eve of May’s local elections, Mr Brokenshire – and his Ministerial colleagues – will change their message and claim profligate councils are at fault.
They cannot have it both ways. However, as hundreds of people are forced each day to give up work to care for loved ones, this obfuscation is totally disingenuous when the issue at stake is the treatment of vulnerable people by society.
And these are the home truths that Mr Brokenshire needs to acknowledge. For nine years, councils across Yorkshire – and the rest of the country – have had to impose austerity measures while dealing with sustained increases in demand for social care provision and special education needs in particular.
The figures are stark. According to the Centre for Cities think-tank, just four out of 62 British cities spent the majority of their budget on social care 10 years ago. Now half of them do. And this is confirmed by the National Audit Office which says councils spend, on average, 55 per cent of their budgets on social care compared to 45 per cent in 2010-11.
This trend isn’t going to change – it is likely to intensify – and both are issues that will have to be factored into this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review that is intended to determine Britain’s spending priorities once the impact of Brexit becomes clearer. Even assuming, for now, that the UK leaves the European Union on March 29, the spending review cannot be completed until the Government explains how it intends social care to be funded in the long-term. A Green Paper was expected last Autumn. Yet it is still pending. And, because of this, councils can’t plan for the future. The consequence? More families left in limbo while Ministers play the political equivalent of pass the parcel.