Council tax rises “will not cover” social care shortfall
Planned council tax rises will not bring in enough money to cover the rising cost of social care, local authorities in England have warned.
A Local Government Association (LGA) survey found nine out of 10 councils expect to increase bills by 2% from April, under new powers.
But the LGA says rising demand and paying staff the new minimum wage will cancel out most of the extra cash.
Ministers say supporting those most in need is an absolute priority.
The findings come as a ComRes survey for BBC 5live suggests three quarters of people in England and Wales do not want local authorities to cut social care spending and are happy to pay more in council tax for the new minimum wage.
Local authorities in England were given the option of raising council tax bills by up to 2% from April specifically to pay for social care costs by Chancellor George Osborne in last November”s Spending Review.
The LGA says there will be a shortfall of more than £2.9bn in care services by 2020.
Its recent survey shows 90% of councils are considering or have approved plans to raise council tax next year.
The change will cost taxpayers on average £24 a year for a Band D property, raising £372m for councils.
But increases to the minimum wage in April – which the government calls the National Living Wage – will wipe out nearly 90% of that extra money, according to the LGA, leaving little left for new investments or rising demand.
LGA vice-chair Councillor Nick Forbes said: “The quality and quantity of services on offer could drop.
“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.
“Vital social care services will increasingly be unable to help ease the growing pressure on the NHS and the threat of a care home crisis is still very real.”
A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said that by 2020, councils would be receiving £3.5bn a year through the council tax rise and money available from a joint fund with the NHS.
“Supporting those most in need is an absolute priority and we have provided a £3.5bn social care package – compared to the £2.9bn councils said they needed,” he said.
In a survey for BBC Radio 5 live, more than 900 adults in England and Wales were asked to prioritise the three services they thought should be spared from funding cuts.
The highest support was for services which support vulnerable people – 74% of those asked said they wanted to protect services for the elderly, and 65% wanted to protect children”s services.
There was also support for housing (29%), community safety (23%) and roads and planning (21%).
Of those polled, 7% said they wanted to protect public administration, such as running council websites, while 12% wanted to protect culture and leisure.
The same survey also found 71% of adults think local authorities should increase council tax to help care home workers get the living wage.
Ryan Godwin, the owner and manager of Holme Manor, an independent care home in Rossendale, Lancashire, told BBC 5 live that the money from the rise in council tax was not enough to address “chronic under-investment over the last few years”.
“It”s not clear how much of the 2% will be allocated to social care funding,” he added. “There has been a historic lack in increase of income and it”s causing this crisis.
“One of our fears is that people are not going to be able to have access to care when they need it, because they are unable to finance the level of care they need to go into a suitable local care home.”
5 live Daily with Adrian Chiles will be broadcast live from Holme Manor care home on Tuesday 23 February from 10:00 GMT to explore the issues around paying for social care. You can listen to 5 live at bbc.co.uk/5live.