Social care could be drastically cut unless Chancellor Rishi Sunak gives local officials a substantial injection of funding, council leaders have warned.
England’s biggest councils say they could be forced to cut services in the event of a multi-billion-pound black hole in their finances.
County councils have calculated that they will have a £2.8bn cash deficit over the next three years, even if council tax bills increase by 1.99 per cent each year, the maximum allowed for general spending.
The chancellor is believed to be considering allowing local officials to raise council taxes to address their shortfalls without requiring a referendum, like other domestic bills already increasing.
But the County Councils Network said the only way to avoid major cuts in services would be to increase the council tax to 7.99 per cent each year, adding £392 to the average bill over the next three years.
Council leaders said that with the cost of living rising, an overall increase of at least 24 percent would be unacceptable and unfair to families.
Moving up that scale would mean the average Band D bill would average £2,386 a year by 2025, up from £1,898 now.
Councils were already grappling with years of austerity before the coronavirus hit, but lockdowns and social distancing dwindled their incomes and they faced additional bills to support people through the pandemic.
Earlier in the year, officials warned they were short of funds of up to £2.2 billion.
Hiking may not be the only answer to filling the council tax shortfall, argued county council chiefs, who in a review of Mr Sunak’s spending on 27 October asked for a chunk of cash for the next three years to avoid cuts to services. Can you
Officials said they were facing the most significant pressures in social care, so fees in adult social care could be increased and preventive services in child social care could be cut.
Other potential impacts include tightening eligibility criteria, the leaders warned.
The £2.8bn cash shortfall was calculated from the financial plans of the 36 councils that belong to the network, which covers almost half of England’s population.
Although council tax is levied by district councils, the bills include a “rule” for counties.
They predict the legacy of COVID-19, such as higher demand for children’s services and higher costs in adult social care, will keep their budgets strained in future years.
Mr Sunak is believed to be considering asking local officials to increase the social care rule element of the council tax above the 2.99 percent threshold.
Carl Les, finance spokesman for County Council Network, said: “While county local officials are facing an extremely difficult time in the coming three years, rising costs of services, demographic pressure and the legacy of the coronavirus mean that we need to save or increase savings.” Need to find income £2.8bn over the next years to balance our books.
“We are fully aware that the cost of living is rising and many families are suffering from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Therefore, massive council tax increases to make up for our funding shortfall would be unacceptable and unfair to hard-pressed residents.
“It will also be a sustainable approach to financing services, increasing variable amounts across the country.
“We appreciate the tight financial environment facing the chancellor, but we are calling on the government to put more funding into the system for local authorities over the next three years, to avoid another round of massive cuts in services.” Can go
“The government’s leveling agenda must begin with adequately funding public services.”
Granthshala Treasury has been asked to comment.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /