The survey was sent to senior decision-makers at each of England’s 353 councils (Council Leaders, Chief Executives, Cabinet Members for Finance/Resources and Directors of Finance/Resources) between 9th January and 5th February 2019, and revealed that 29% of councils who responded planned to reduce social care spending, with 37% naming the sector as their top, long-term financial pressure.
Key findings include:
- Eight in ten (80%) councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance; none said they were ‘very confident’.
- 97% of councils plan to increase council tax in 2019-20, three quarters by more than 2.5% (the maximum increase without a referendum is 3% in most places).
- Over half of councils (53%) plan to dip into their reserves this year. Worryingly, 40% of councils plan to use their reserves two years running.
- Children’s Services and Education is the top immediate financial pressure for the second year running (36% of councils), ahead of Adult Social Care (23%) which has historically ranked highest. However Adult Social Care is still under severe strain, being named as the top longterm financial pressure (37% of councils).
The Independent Care Group’s Chair, Mike Padgham, said: “Adult social care is already cut to the bone and further cuts can only add significantly to the 1.4m who don’t get the care they need.
“Cuts will heap yet more pressure on the NHS which will inevitably have to provide care if adult social care is cut back yet more. This will undermine recent investment in the NHS and you can’t expect the NHS to perform better if you keep cutting back on social care provision.
“At the moment investing in the NHS, without supporting adult social care, is a bit like modernising a house but leaving a hole in the roof,” Mike said.
The Independent Care Group called on the government to publish its long-awaited Green Paper on reforming adult social care as a matter of urgency.
“Providers are struggling, going out of business and handing back contracts and the number of people living without the care they have a right to expect continues to rise,” Mike said.
“Further cutbacks will be another kick in the teeth for social care and we cannot wait any longer for action to address the crisis once and for all.”
Responding to the, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. This survey illustrates the severity of the challenge facing councils with government grant funding at the lowest it has been for decades at the same time as demand for services, such as adult social care, children’s services and homelessness support, has grown.
“Faced with a government funding settlement that assumes maximum council tax rises and these funding pressures, many councils feel they have little choice but to ask residents to pay more council tax again this year to help them try and protect their local services. With councils facing a funding gap of more than £3 billion this year, council tax rises will not prevent the need for continued cutbacks to local services.
“The Spending Review will be make or break for vital local services and securing the financial sustainability of councils must be the top priority. If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them. Fully funding councils is the only way they will be able to keep providing the services which matter to people’s lives.”