Council Tax rises in 2017-18 will be not be enough the close the growing gap in adult social care funding in England, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
Local authorities have been permitted to raise Council Tax by up to 1.99% for local services and a further 3% to improve social care funding, meaning some areas could see Council Tax hiked by as much as 4.99%. Councils considering even steeper rises will need to hold a referendum.
But the LGA say that even if councils approve the social care precept, this still won’t prevent them from having to make cuts to local services – including children’s centres, leisure centres, libraries, and filling potholes.
Councils across England are preparing to finalise their budgets over the next few weeks, with 147 of 151 social care authorities either considering or have already approved introducing the social care precept.
72% of councils are considering, or have already approved a 3% social care precept, while 25% are looking at a 2% increase. Only four councils in England have chosen to freeze Council Tax next year.
The LGA says this means councils will raise £543 million to pay for social care services, but warn the extra income is likely to be swallowed up by having to pay workers the new ‘National Living Wage’.
If all local authorities were to opt for the full 4.99% Council Tax increase, it would raise an additional £60 million to fund local services. But with councils facing an overall funding gap of £5.8 billion, it’s virtually inevitable that cuts to local services would still be needed to help cover the shortfall.
The LGA has urged the government to use this month’s ‘Local Government Finance Settlement’ to provide councils with much-needed ‘new money’ to keep England’s social care system afloat.
Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said: “Services supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities are at breaking point and many councils are increasingly unable to turn down the chance to raise desperately-needed money for social care and other local services next year.
“But extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care both now and in the future and the social care precept raises different amounts of money in different parts of the country.
“Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this crisis.
“Without genuinely new additional government funding for social care, vulnerable people face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve. This is not only worse for our loved ones but will also heap further pressure and wasted expense on the NHS.
“All councils are being pushed perilously close to the financial edge after years of funding reductions. Two thirds will be forced to find millions of pounds more in savings than they were expecting next year following cuts to the New Homes Bonus.
“Councils need government to reverse these New Homes Bonus cuts next year and find genuinely new money to fund social care.”