Council tax rises are not the answer to social care woes

Council tax rises in 2019/20 will not bring in enough money to prevent the need for further cutbacks to the care that millions of older and disabled people rely on every day, the Local Government Association has said.

All councils are able to raise council tax by up to 2.99 per cent in 2019/20 to fund local services without the need for a referendum.

Some social care authorities remain able to levy an extra social care precept of up to 2 per cent (up to 4.99 per cent in total with the general flexibility) this year. Income from this precept must be spent on adult social care services.

Just as local authorities set their final budgets and council tax levels, LGA research reveals the following: 

  • 67 social care councils (44 per cent) are unable to levy any more social care precept in 2019/20 
  • 83 of England’s social care authorities are considering or have approved an adult social care precept in 2019/20 with 38 using the full 2 per cent precept available to them this year
  • The extra £197 million raised to pay for adult social care services in 2019/20 is not even equivalent to the estimated £290 million cost to councils of paying for the increase in the Government’s National Living Wage this year.

The LGA has estimated that even if all councils used their council tax flexibilities to the maximum allowed, adult social care services still face a funding gap of at least £1 billion in 2019/20, just to maintain existing standards of care. This will rise to £3.6 billion by 2025.

The LGA is calling for the Government to use its Spending Review to tackle the immediate adult social care funding gap and publish a comprehensive Green Paper on social care to find a truly long-term, sustainable funding solution to this adult social care crisis.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system. It has raised different amounts of money in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, and risked adding an extra financial burden on households.

“Investing in social care is the best way to keep people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community.”

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