Councils angry at government's social care offer

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Councils say it is "hugely disappointing" that the government has not given them extra money to tackle shortfalls in social care funding.

Ministers will let local authorities bring forward council tax rises, and money cut from a housing scheme will be spent on social care instead.

The government said it would create a "sustainable" system for everyone who needs social care.

But the Local Government Association said the measures "fall well short".

LGA chairman Lord Porter said an "urgent injection of genuinely new additional government funding" was needed.

He said the council tax change would help some areas in the short-term but not be "anywhere near enough" to relieve pressure on the sector, adding that it would "add an extra financial burden on already struggling households".

He said changes to the New Homes Bonus, which rewards councils for building new homes, were "not new money but a redistribution of funding already promised to councils".

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the measures as he set out the local government finance settlement in the Commons.

He said the settlement, which governs how councils in England will be funded, "recognises the cost of delivering adult social care and makes more funding available sooner".

Mr Javid told MPs the two measures would mean £900m extra for local authorities over the next two years to fund social care services.

But the cash was described as "a drop in the ocean" by the Care and Support Alliance of charities, while the president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives said: "Simply robbing Peter to pay Paul will not tackle a systemic funding problem."

Find out the cost of care in your area

On Wednesday, it emerged the government would offer councils an increase in the extra council tax they can impose to cover social care costs.

This was confirmed by Mr Javid, who said local authorities would be permitted to increase council tax by up to 6% over two years, ringfenced for social care, with a maximum of 3% each year.

The 6% previously had to be spread over three years. A 1% increase would raise an estimated £200m, although the effect would vary across the country.

Media caption,
Jeremy Corbyn tells Theresa May: 'Get a grip and fund it properly please'
Media caption,
Theresa May: 'Let's look at 13 years of Labour in government... 13 years and no action whatsoever'

In total, about £19.7bn will be spent on social care in England this year.

Mr Javid added that more money was "not the only answer", saying some councils needed to work harder to reduce delays in discharging people from hospital beds caused by a lack of available social care.

Responding to Mr Javid, shadow communities and local government minister Gareth Thomas said the local government settlement would "leave people paying high taxes for worse public services".

He urged the government to reconsider a planned corporation tax cut in order to plug the social care funding gap.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons Health Select Committee, welcomed the government measures but said they did not go far enough to address the increase in demand, urging ministers to start cross-party talks "urgently".

Former health minister and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, who has been calling for more investment in adult social care, described Mr Javid's statement as "feeble".

But the government says it is investing in social care through its Better Care Fund, as well as taking steps to more closely integrate health and social care provision.

Council tax accounts for only about half of local authority income - the rest coming from central grants, which are being cut, and business rates, which are volatile - so it is unclear by how much care budgets will rise.

Media caption,
Jill Colbert and Ray James tell Today there is a need for increased funding for elderly care.

The numbers of elderly people going without care, paying for it themselves or relying on family and friends currently outstrip those getting council help by four to one.

The head of the NHS in England has suggested free bus passes and pension benefits for older people may have to be reconsidered to address the problems facing social care.

Appearing before MPs on Thursday, Simon Stevens said a sweeping new "social contract" was needed setting out the "full range of services and needs that people have in retirement", predicated on the right for people to receive care in their homes.

"There is no point in saying to our parents 'yes you've got a free bus pass if you're not able to leave the house because you don't have the availability of a home help," he said.