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Council spending LESS on social care despite adding to council tax to fund it

Posted on 16/01/2018 by

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North East Lincolnshire spent LESS on adult social care in 2016/2017 compared with 2014/15 - despite increasing council tax to fund it

North East Lincolnshire Council has failed to plug a spending gap in adult social care caused by huge government cuts - despite using new powers to hike council tax bills.

New analysis shows that NELC is in a national “top 10” of councils that have seen spending on adult care fall most dramatically between 2014/15 and 2016/17.

That is despite councils being given new powers to increase council tax specifically to pay for adult social care in their 2016/17 budgets.

North East Lincolnshire saw spending on adult care fall from £56 million in 2014/15 to £47.3 million in 2015/16.

In 2016/17 - the year the new levy was introduced - it rose very slightly to £49.8 million.

That means that despite adding an extra two per cent to council tax bills, £26 more a year on a Band D bill, adult care spending was still £6.2 million lower than two years earlier.

The figures are based on the latest data published by NHS Digital.

An NELC spokesperson said: "Adult Social Care is the Council's most significant area of spend and accounts for about 42 per cent of our net budget in the current year.

"Whilst it is correct to state that the Council's spending on adult social care has reduced over the past few years, this must be considered in the context of significant reductions in local government funding more generally.

"The Council has seen its revenue support grant, which contributes towards the delivery of services, reduce from £43.3m in 2014/15 to just £17.8M in the current financial year.

"In response to these reductions it was necessary for the Council to reduce its spend on adult social care by £9m over the financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16.

"It is important to note that the Council has seen greater reductions in its funding than many other areas due to its relative reliance on revenue support grant to fund its activities in the past.

"The Council has used Government flexibilities announced in the 2016/17 local government funding settlement and applied an adult social care precept of two per cent in 2016/17 with a further three per cent applied in 2017/18.

"The precept was unlikely to bridge the gap brought about by the local government funding reductions, but it has raised approximately £2.8m additional funds which have been used to support service delivery. Without this flexibility the reduction in adult social care spend could have been even greater. "

Adult social care provides help to people who suffer from physical or mental disabilities, or have mental health needs.

It includes the provision of community and residential care for vulnerable adults, including the elderly.

While councils are chiefly responsible for providing it, they have seen their overall budgets repeatedly slashed by the government.

The Local Government Association claims the amount councils receive from the Treasury fell by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2017.

Partly in response to that, the government said that as of 2016/17 councils could put up to an extra two per cent on council tax bills - in the form of a “adult social care precept”.

The precept has proven controversial, with critics mainly from the Labour Party saying it should be for the Treasury - not local taxpayers - who foot the bill for social care. And the new data suggests it has in any case failed to cover the cost of wider government cuts in our region.

Overall - across Yorkshire and the Humber, councils spending on adult social care rose by 3.7 per cent between 2014/15 and 2016/17, from slightly more than £1.6bn to less than£1.7bn.

At a national level, total spending on adult social care actually rose between 2014/15 and 2016/17.

Councils across England spent £17.5bn on adult social care in the financial year 2016/17, compared to £17bn in 2014/15.

There were 55 out of 152 councils that made cuts.

This happened despite almost all of them increasing council tax to try to cover the funding gap in adult social care services.

On top of the two per cent additional levy in 2016/17, councils can raise the amount levied up to three per cent this financial year and the next, but if they do this, they can’t increase it again in 2019/20.

Only eight local authorities chose not to use the adult social care precept in 2016/17, while 72 per cent cent chose to increase it by the full amount.

Councils that use the adult social care precept raised £382 million during the last financial year.

A Government spokesman said: “We announced an extra £2 billion for adult social care care last year, giving councils access to £9.25 billion of dedicated funding over three years – along with the freedom to raise more money through the precept.

“We will consider how they are using these powers when setting the amount they can raise rates by in future.”

The Government also specified that councils must certify they are using extra money raised for adult social care for this purpose.

According to the government, all councils are answerable to their local electorate for how they spend money, including to deliver adult social care.

They are also required to certify that their authority will use the additional funding for adult social care.

Source: Grimsby Telegraph