Council tax to rise while services cut, says LGA

Nearly every local authority in England is planning to raise council taxes this year but council leaders are warning services still face “deep cuts”.

The Local Government Association says funding care for increasing numbers of elderly people is forcing up bills.

It says many councils are planning tax increases of up to 4.99% but that cuts to libraries, bin collections and other services will still be needed.

The government insists it is giving more money to councils.

  • What’s the deal with council tax increases?

Social care is a lifeline for people like Maureen Edwards, from Surrey, who said that after she had a fall everyday living was “difficult”.

She said: “They come in and they get me up in the mornings and they wash me and then they sort of bring me downstairs and I have my breakfast.

“It’s just like normal living now, I’m very grateful for all they’ve done for me.”

But such services are being put under strain by the ageing population and budget cuts.

Councils are struggling to provide help, feed, wash or get people dressed in their own home or to pay for beds in a care home and the burden often falls on families.

  • How can social care be funded?
  • Who gets social care and who pays for it?
  • Is social care getting more money?

All councils in England can raise council tax by 1.99% in April without having a local referendum.

The 151 social care authorities can increase bills by an extra 3% as long as that money goes on social care.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says 147 of these have already agreed or are planning to raise the extra money. And three-quarters are set to introduce the maximum hike.

However, the LGA says further cuts will still be needed as councils are being pushed “perilously close to the financial edge”.

Warwickshire County Council leader Izzi Seccombe told the BBC: “To continue it is really looking like we’re cutting into the bones of services that matter to people.

“It’s not just social care. Things like roads, highways, bus services which are subsidised, libraries, access to leisure centres, waste services, children’s services as well.”

Councils spent £16bn last year on services for elderly and disabled people after funding from central government was cut by a third, in real terms, during the last Parliament.

Ms Seccombe said an extra £1.3bn was needed for social care in the next financial year alone.

And while the council tax rises would raise about £600m, she said that would be swallowed up by paying current staff more when the National Living Wage comes into effect.

Ms Seccombe added: “We need to put social care on a stable footing.

“I’m worried about the impact on vulnerable people in our communities.

“[And] I’m worried about what that means for carers who will be left picking up the pieces that local authorities will not be able to manage.”

Find out the cost of care in your area

Home care

What is home care?

You stay in your own home while getting help with everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.

How your council helps with care

average amount of care provided per week, by your council

average paid per hour by your council, 2014-15

average paid per hour in your region if you pay for your own care, 2016

Residential care

What is residential care?

You live in a care home that provides round-the-clock support with everyday tasks.

How your council helps with care

Average contribution per week

Paying for yourself

TBC pay for their own care

Nursing home care

What is nursing home care?

You live in a care home which provides round-the-clock support for everyday tasks and nursing care. Depending on your medical needs, the NHS may contribute to your costs.

How your council helps with care

Average contribution per week

Paying for yourself

TBC pay for their own care

Who gets help?

How is your contribution decided?

Your home

Savings, investments and income are assessed, along with the value of your home – unless you or a close relative live there.

Will I have anything left?

Want to know more?

  • Care: The problem no-one can fix
  • The alternative options
  • How the care system works across the UK

Last week charity Age UK warned that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable older people were left struggling to get by with little or no care because of cuts to care in England.

Surrey County Council had toyed with raising council tax by 15% to help tackle the problem, but decided against asking local people to vote.

Instead, as a social care authority, it is going for the maximum 4.99% increase.

David McNulty, the council’s chief executive, told the BBC: “We’ve saved over £450m from our annual running costs over the last six years.

“We’re on the way to try and save up to £700m, but we’re struggling to balance next year’s budget.

“I think our services are at breaking point.”

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the MP for South West Surrey, said tackling social care problems was on the government’s agenda.

He said: “The prime minister has been very clear. We recognise the pressure’s there. We recognise there is a problem about the sustainability of the social care system.

“That has to be addressed and we are going to do that.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Whilst local authorities – like all public bodies – have had to find efficiency savings, our historic four-year funding settlement gives them the certainty they need to plan ahead with almost £200bn available to provide the services that local people want.

“By the end of this parliament, councils will be able to keep 100% of local taxes. We’ve also announced an additional £900m for social care meaning councils will have £7.6bn of dedicated funding to spend over the four years.”

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