North Yorkshire County Council has reacted with concern at what it sees as insufficient money to address the pressures on adult social care in the local government financial settlement announced today.
Although it must consider the detail of the settlement, the County Council believes today’s announcement by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, provides little new money for social care and the extra simply represents a redistribution of funds from elsewhere in local government for one year only.
Gary Fielding, the County Council’s Corporate Director of Strategic Resources, said: “The only new money for social care appears to be a one-off sum of £2.4m next year and that has come from a redistribution of other local government funds. There is also the opportunity to bring forward further adult social care precept (part of the council tax) but that already formed part of our budget calculations. As a result, the situation in North Yorkshire remains extremely challenging and the year-on-year financial gap remains unchanged.”
In the coming financial year, the County Council will have to find an additional £13m to fund adult social care. This is a result of pressure from increasing demand, the impact of the National Living Wage, inflation and the planned savings which cannot now be achieved because of the increasing demand on the service.
Mr Javid had said the Government would allow councils to raise funds earlier through the dedicated adult social care precept on council tax. In its first year, the adult social care precept was limited to a two per cent rise in council tax. This has now been raised to up to three per cent over the next two years However, the total increase can be no more than six per cent over three years, so the third year’s precept would have to be reduced accordingly, meaning that overall no additional funding is available.
County Council Leader Councillor Carl Les said he was pleased that the Secretary of State had listened to and understood the calls that funding was needed sooner to meet short-term social care pressures but would have preferred this funding to have been provided through central government taxation, which is a fairer system, rather than through council tax payments.
He said: “The residents of North Yorkshire, like other shire counties, tend to pay higher levels of council tax than urban counterparts and receive significantly less government grant. That is why it would have been better for the government to recognise the added pressures in social care through direct grant rather than increases in council tax.
“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to our concerns about immediate pressures on the care system and we look forward to further discussions about the longer term solutions with him on this subject. However, the lack of significant new money in the interim to tackle the increasing pressures on social care is concerning.
“North Yorkshire already operates an efficient, cost-effective and innovative service. Our issues are not those of inefficiency, they are of growth and demand for our services.
“It is good news that people are living longer and one of the County Council’s priorities is helping people to continue living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. However, sufficient funding needs to be available to support an already stretched but vital service for the county’s most vulnerable residents.
“Recent care market studies show that North Yorkshire is already at a place where the rest of the country will be in 2020, with demand for services and demographic trends five years ahead of the national average.”
North Yorkshire has called on the Government over the last year to provide a more sustainable settlement for adult social care and for a better deal for rural and coastal communities that tend to have older populations and proportionately higher costs. It warned last month that the Chancellor’s failure to announce additional funding for adult social care in his autumn statement would place intense pressure on services
North Yorkshire has protected adult social care spending to a greater extent than many other councils and now spends 42 per cent of its budget on the social care of older people and vulnerable adults.
Currently there are 140,000 people in North Yorkshire (out of a 500,000 population) aged over 65, of whom 13.5 per cent (19,000) are aged over 85, which is ahead of the national average and projected to increase dramatically in future years.
In his announcement today, the Secretary of State confirmed that the offer of a four-year settlement deal accepted by the County Council earlier this year in preference to an annual settlement would remain in place. Despite this, the settlement remains acutely challenging given that it represents the phased removal of the Government’s revenue support grant by 2020, but it offers a degree of certainty and the opportunity for contingency planning during a period of extreme uncertainty.
County Councillors will make decisions on council tax rises for 2017/18 in February. The County Council is currently running a budget consultation online at www.northyorks.gov.uk/budgetconsultation.