Council tax rises in the next financial year will not raise enough money to prevent further cutbacks to care, the Local Government Association (LGA) has claimed.
The LGA estimates that even if all authorities used their council tax flexibilities, adult social care services would still face a funding gap of at least £1bn in 2019/20, just to maintain existing standards of care. This will rise to £3.6bn by 2025, it said.
All local authorities will be able to raise council tax by up to 2.99% in 2019/20 to fund services without the need for a referendum.
Some authorities remain able to levy an extra social care precept of up to 2% (up to 4.99% in total) this year. Income from this precept must be spent on adult social care services.
Research by the LGA showed that 67 councils (44%) are unable to levy any more social care precept in 2019/20; 83 of England’s authorities are considering or have approved an adult social care precept in 2019/20, with 38 using the full 2% available; and the precept increases will raise an extra £197m to pay for services this year. The LGA has warned this will not cover the £290m cost to councils for the National Living Wage rise this year, which goes up in April to £8.21 for people aged 25 or over.
Councils will have to divert money from bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres to try and protect adult social care services, the LGA said.
It is calling for the government to use its Spending Review to tackle the adult social care funding gap and publish its green paper to find a sustainable financial solution.
Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said: ‘Adult social care provides vital support to millions of people every day but is at breaking point.
‘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.
‘Plugging the immediate funding gap facing adult social care and finding a genuine long-term funding solution must therefore be an urgent priority for the government.’
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons in January, he planned to publish the green paper before April.