Plans to allow local authorities to speed up council tax rises to help bridge the yawning gap in social care services have been described as “pretty rubbish” by the man in charge of Lancashire’s finances.
The Government announced yesterday that councils could bring forward increases in local taxation to provide an extra £900m over the next two years.
But Coun David Borrow, deputy leader and “Chancellor” at County Hall said the statement by Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid was “just robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
Coun Borrow said the announcement left Lancashire in “no better position than we have been forecasting”.
“And actually by 2020/21 we could have an additional gap of over £8m on top of the £146m currently forecast,” he declared. “The funding gap identified in our existing forecasts had already allowed for council tax increases of 3.99 per cent every year for the next four years, including the maximum two per cent per year precept allowed to help fund social care.
“The government has announced that we can increase the social care precept from two per cent to three per cent in 2017-18, but can still only raise it by six per cent over three years and potentially no increase in 2020/21. That means we still predict a shortfall of well over £90m in funding for adult social care by 2020/21.
“We need significant additional funding to bridge the gap. Lancashire is significantly under-funded and unless something is done the system will break.
“The Government have not addressed that. They are just shifting money around, they are not bringing any new money in.”
Mr Javid told the House of Commons that councils had dealt with budget cuts “admirably”. He added: “Public satisfaction with local services has been maintained.
“There is much that other parts of the public sector can learn from councillors across the country when it comes to delivering value for money. But no-one is disguising that more can be done to improve efficiency and further transform services.
“Council tax is a local decision. All local councils will need to justify social care precept rises to their taxpayers. They will need to show how the additional income is spent to support people who need care in their area and how it improves adult social care services.”