Philip Hammond’s Treasury should “grow up’”and properly fund social care, the Tories’ most senior council chief has declared.
In a withering attack on his own Government, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), blasted Number 11 for failing to provide much needed cash to help alleviate a growing crisis in the sector.
Last year, the LGA revealed councils had to contend with a £5billion funding gap for adult social care between 2011/12 and 2015/16 as result of a 40 per cent reduction in funds handed over by central government.
Lord Porter warned if the Treasury did not invest money now, it would end up paying out more for emergency care further down the line.
The peer also called for an end to free bus passes for the elderly and for the automatic paying of winter fuel allowance to pensioners to be scrapped as a way of saving money that could be reinvested into social care.
Speaking to the Huff Post UK, Lord Porter said: “The Treasury are going to have to grow up and start properly funding adult social care.
“It’s about stopping people going to the hospital in the first place, and if they have to go in to hospitals, then getting them out as quickly as possible.
“We have to put some new money in now.
“That’s the reality, if we don’t spend it now we will spend more down the line.
“There’s a broad coalition of people saying spend more on adult social care, it’s the right thing to do.”
His comments come just a week after the chairmen of three parliamentary committees wrote to Theresa May calling for a “cross-party consensus” on how to fund social care.
Since the Conservatives returned to power in 2010, councils across the country have been required to tighten their belts.
An Institute for Fiscal Studies report published in March 2015 revealed that local authorities’ spending per person was been cut by 23.4% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2014–15.
The study also claimed the most “deprived areas and those that saw faster population growth have seen larger cuts.”
Speaking to Huff Post UK, Lord Porter acknowledged that prior to the financial squeeze “there was money being spent on things you wouldn’t want your council to spend money on.”
However, he believes councils are seen as a “soft target” and the Government keeps coming “back, back and back” with more cuts.
The peer, who was elected as chair of the LGA in June 2015, called for some of the money the UK currently sends to the EU to be ringfenced for local authorities once Brexit takes place.
He said: “You have got £8.9billion the Treasury doesn’t control at the moment, and we reckon local government will be £5.6billion short. You could fix the local government issue and have a few quid left over.”
Lord Porter claimed millions could be saved by reforming some of the benefits currently enjoyed by pensioners, such as free bus travel for pensioners.
The scheme is funded through the central government grant given to councils, but as this as reduced many authorities have had to cut back on other transport schemes in order to foot the bill.
Lord Porter said: “We should drive it back to half price for pensioners. It would still encourage people to use buses and allow companies to generate cash.”
The peer, who is also a councillor in Lincolnshire, called for reform of the Winter Fuel Payment – which also benefits pensioners.
He said: “People get it whether they want it or not, but we should just make it something you have to ask for - you have to request a payment.”
In a letter on January 6, Clive Betts, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, and Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Committee, asked the Prime Minister to take immediate action on the social care crisis.
The letter said: “We were encouraged by your recognition at the Liaison Committee that everyone has a part to play in finding a sustainable way of ensuring social care provision in the future.
“You also accepted the need for a review to find a way of funding· social care sustainably for the long term.
“We believe that can best be achieved if there is cross-party consensus, and therefore urge you to invite all parties to become involved in a review, which should begin as soon as possible.
“Given the scale of rising demand, this immense challenge will face whichever Party is in government over the coming decades.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the “deepening crisis which threatens the well-being, dignity and lives of hundreds of thousands of older people.”