Little long-term clarity on social care funding in fast-track Spending Round

Local councillors have welcomed the prospect of a fast-track one-year Spending Round in September, but they stress that social care must have long-term clarity on resources.

Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association said: “The Spending Round needs to make securing the sustainability of local services the top priority. It needs to confirm the continuation of key funding streams such as the Better Care Fund, and guarantee councils will have enough money to meet the growing demand pressures they face next year.”

Ahead of the spending review, it is unclear how much the government plans to spend overall. However, according to analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, it is presumed that overall spending will be promised at a level above that implied by the provisional spending plans published by the previous Chancellor Philip Hammond alongside the March 2019 Spring Statement.

Those plans imply an increase in day-to-day spending of £4.5 billion (1.5%) next year, in 2019−20 prices. However, given government’s commitments on the NHS, defence, overseas aid, schools and the police, the implication is that the Treasury will need to make cuts to the other ‘unprotected’ areas of around £2 billion next year. It is unclear how social care will fare in the announcements.

Cllr David Williams, chairman-elect of the County Council Network (CCN) added: “Given the one-year spending review, it is unlikely that the fair funding review can be introduced next year. This is extremely disappointing. However, we will be seeking a cast iron commitment from government that the review is concluded and published this year, with implementation set for 2021/22.”  

Commenting, John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said: “This smacks of pre-election panic measures by the government… splashing a little bit of cash as a publicity stunt, but keeping the door open for even more austerity if a no deal Brexit breaks the economy.

“A one-year spending review means that the government is able to turn off the taps of any additional spending after the first year. There are also gaping holes in the spending plans – nowhere near enough for our NHS or our schools or our local councils.”

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