SIGOMA responds to Social Care announcements
Posted on October 12, 2021
Yorkshire Post - "Council tax hikes won't fix social care funding crisis" - 11th October 2021
Over the last decade council funding has been cut by more than £16bn – and disproportionally weighted against more deprived authorities. To put this in perspective, this is similar in size to the entire local authority adult social care budget. To save vital frontline services councils have had to cut preventative ones – there is simply no more that councils can cut. This means that local authorities will be forced to substantially increase council tax.
However, for council tax to properly fund care, the Local Government Association recently calculated that it would have to rise by 25% over the next 3 years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that a rise of 3.6% is required just to keep services running at pre-pandemic levels. This shows that council tax increases cannot in themselves pay for social care - more funding from general taxation is urgently required.
Residents however will have no doubt heard that PM has said that his government will “get social care done” and the new money meeting their aim to “fix” social care. They will therefore get a shock when their National Insurance increases and so does their council tax to support social care. Good luck to councillors trying to explain that! As council tax is a regressive tax, this will hit those can afford it least – at time when fuel and energy costs are increasing and the £20 uplift in universal credit has ended.
Not only is it regressive for residents, but poorer areas are able to raise less through increases. If I raise council tax by 1% in Barnsley, due to banding distribution, that raises a lot less than a 1% increase in a wealthy authority in the south east. Within SIGOMA – the network of urban councils that I chair - almost half of our properties are Band A which is double the rate in the rest of the country. The social care precept makes this worse, further increasing reliance on your local council tax base.
It is clear that the spending review must provide significant grant funding, related to need, rather than touting that councils have “access” to new funding, which will just be further council tax rises. Government has made rightly made “Levelling Up” a cornerstone policy of this parliament with the Secretary of State responsible for local government now leading the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Quality public services must be an essential part of a long term 20-year strategy to bring parity between different regions of the UK. I therefore urge the government to put social care at the heart of the upcoming spending review. Not doing so would not simply represent a significant missed opportunity but would mean their “levelling up” ambitions are unlikely to be achieved.
Read the full article in the in the Yorkshire Post.
The Municipal Journal "Expect tax double whammy on residents to pay for social care" 30th September 2021
In the March 2017 Budget, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government would publish a Green Paper on social care with a publication date originally stated as “Summer 2017”. Skip forward 2 years, after many delays, to Prime Minster Boris Johnson speaking on the steps of 10 Downing Street in the summer of 2019 famously announcing that “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. 2 further years on from that statement we finally have sight of the government’s plans.
After 4 years of waiting, we found that the social care system will receive just £5.4bn over 3 years but aimed solely at funding new proposals. There are serious questions to answer over the existing funding gap in social care, the quality of care provided and the largely underpaid social care workforce. After 3 years there is more flexibility proposed about where the funds from the Social Care levy go – however, with the size of the NHS backlog and likely demand for health services, there are fears that getting any additional funding for care will be a serious challenge.
One passage in particular from the social care document sent shivers down spines in town halls up and down the country – “We expect demographic and unit cost pressures will be met through council tax, social care precept, and long-term efficiencies”. It is a point SIGOMA make often, but worth repeating again – council tax raises considerably different amounts across the country and in a manner not related to need. If I raise council tax by 1% in Barnsley, that raises a lot less than a 1% increase in a wealthy authority in the south east, due to banding distribution. Within SIGOMA areas, almost half of our properties are Band A – double the rate in the rest of the country. The social care precept makes this worse, further increasing reliance on your local council tax base.
Read the full article in the MJ.