Communities Secretary Sajid Javid says £900 million will be made available for councils to pay for social care over the next two years
Government was criticised when social care funding was not addressed – or even mentioned – in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last month. The “unanimous and unequivocal” warning from officials and organisations across the sector regarding the funding crisis in social care seemed to have gone unheeded.
Since then, the government has come under increasing pressure to address the issue in some way, with many reiterating that social care services have reached breaking point.
Today in the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid stated that almost £900 million of extra money will be available to local authorities over the next two years to fund social care services.
Bring forward council tax increases to pay for social care
Javid said up to £208m could be raised in 2017/18 and £444m in 2018/19 by allowing English local authorities to bring forward council tax increases totalling 6% over the course of the next two years.
The annual council tax care precept will no longer be limited to 2%, but will rise to either 3% in each of the next two years or be increased to 4% next year.
He went on to explain that a £240m “adult social care support grant” will be created for 2017/18 by reforms to the new homes bonus (NHB), an existing scheme intended to encourage councils to build more properties.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, claimed that the social care funding crisis was “made in Downing Street”. He called on ministers to reverse the decision to cut corporation tax from 20% to 17%, in order to pay for social care and relieve growing pressure on the health service.
Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb called Javid’s measures “a feeble response to a national crisis” and said that raising the precept would be an “unfair way to raise additional money which will increase inequalities between rich and poor areas”.
Not the radical change we need
Many local government leaders were similarly underwhelmed by the announcement.
“Letting councils raise Council Tax by 3% instead of 2% is not the bold radical change social care needs,” tweeted Labour council leader for Liverpool, Joe Anderson.
In an interview with Sky News, Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy called the policy a “poor tax”, comparing it to Margaret Thatcher’s controversial attempt to introduce the poll tax.
“Using council tax as a way to raise money for adult social care is a way that actually the poorest people in our big cities pay more,” he said.
“I think the government has actually finally woken up to the crisis but I’m afraid its response is wholly inadequate.”