The majority of eligible councils are set to make use of the council tax social care precept in 2017-18 to raise extra funds for cash-strapped services, early indications suggest.
Research by HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle has obtained published 2017-18 council tax proposals for a quarter of top-tier councils, covering every region of the country.
It comes as the BBC and Times today report that the government is planning to extend the social care precept in future years, as a mechanism for bringing more funding to the extremely strained area of publically-funded social care.
So far all councils are planning to make use of the social care precept, including Kensington and Chelsea RBC which was one of only eight councils not to apply the precept this year.
LGC’s Council Tax Tracker found the London borough is planning to increase council tax by 2 per cent to fund social care services but is freezing the regular part of the bill.
Of the 38 proposals obtained so far 36 are planning to increase bills by between 3.9 per cent and the maximum 3.99 per cent threshold above which the council must hold a referendum. The next smallest increase for a top tier authority outside of Kensington & Chelsea is a proposed 3 per cent rise by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which will make full use of the precept but only increase regular council tax by 1 per cent.
The 2 per cent ‘social care precept’ was introduced by George Osborne last year and is ring-fenced to help fund care for the elderly and disabled. However, the Local Government Association says the additional funds raised will not cover the cost pressures such as rising demand and the national minimum wage.
Claire Kober, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6bn by 2020, even if every council makes full use of their current flexibility to increase council tax until the end of the decade.
“This means council tax rises are unlikely to prevent the need for continued cutbacks to social care services and avoid consequences around the quality and availability of care for older and disabled people.”
Many authorities are yet to publish details of their council tax plans ahead of the 2017-18 local government finance settlement, which is now expected this week. Following the autumn statement which delivered no additional funding for health and social care, many in local government are hopeful the settlement could bring some relief.
Councillor Kober added: “Services supporting the elderly and disabled are at breaking point. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix them. Only genuinely new additional government funding for social care will give councils any chance of protecting the services caring for our elderly and disabled.”