Hiking up council tax bills to cover the social care funding black hole is a “desperate sticking plaster solution”, Theresa May has been warned.
The prime minister is reportedly preparing to allow tax precepts to be increased so local councils, which have suffered reductions in government grants totalling more than 40% since 2010, can claw in extra cash to cover the spiralling social care costs.
Former chancellor George Osborne introduced a 2% precept to pay for care for the elderly and disabled. Town halls have warned that even if every council imposed the maximum extra levy, social care would still face a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020.
Izzi Seccombe, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association’s community and wellbeing board, said this morning local authorities needed “£1.3bn now because there is a shortfall by the end of 2020 of £2.6bn”.
However Norman Lamb, who served as Lib Dem social care minister in the coalition government, said May was guilty of “dreadful crisis management”.
“They are lurching from crisis to crisis and this is yet another desperate sticking plaster solution which falls short of what is needed,” he said.
“Making councils bear all the burden will increase the postcode lottery which already exists. It will mean that wealthy parts of the country will find it easier to meet rising demand whilst those areas where council tax raises less money will be left struggling.
“The government must be held to account for the consequences of leaving more and more people without the care they desperately need.”
Labour’s Lord Lipsey, who was involved in a Royal Commission on elderly care funding in the 1990s, added: “There could be mass closures of care homes.
“There’s a danger that poor people in poor areas will end up without care, living a squalid life. There could be care black spots because the homes that are reliant on state funding will become unsustainable.”
Yesterday, Labour’s shadow cabinet member of social care, said the Conservatives had “starved social care of funds to a point where the system is now failing to operate effectively”.
“After cuts of £4.5 billion to social care since 2010, we now have regular failures in care services which hit older and vulnerable people who need those services. Social Care failures also affect the wider NHS with record numbers of patients delayed on discharge. One third of those delays are due to lack of social care,” she said.
“Tory Chancellors have damaged social care by failing to fund it adequately and it is hitting older and vulnerable people and NHS services the hardest. We need urgent action from Ministers now.”