Council tax can rise by 3% a year to help fund social care – Javid

Plans set out by communities secretary mean bill for average home will go up by £46 in 2017 but critics say it is too little, too late

Council tax will be allowed to rise faster than expected by about £46 a year for an average home to bail out struggling social care services for the elderly and vulnerable in England, Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, has said.

Under the plans, councils will be able to raise an extra 3% from their local population this year and 3% next year to fund social care, bringing forward planned increases of 2% a year.

A typical band D council tax bill of £1,530 this year would rise by £46 next year to fund social care, on top of a discretionary general increase of 2%.

Javid said there would also be a £240m “adult social care support grant” to help councils that are particularly struggling with care of older residents, which will take money from a scheme to incentivise housebuilding called the new homes bonus.

He said the money would add up to almost £900m for local authorities over the next two years and announced plans for a wider rethink of how to better integrate health and social care.

But the plan was immediately criticised by Labour and Liberal Democrats for being ineffective and regressive as a tax, while some Conservatives also raised concerns that the funding does not go far enough.

Jim McMahon, a shadow communities minister, could be heard saying “passing the buck” as Javid said councils would need to “justify” social care precept rises to their taxpayers.

Clive Efford, another Labour MP, told Javid the plans were not good enough. “We’ve got a great big gaping hole and the secretary of state comes here with a sticking plaster,” he said.

Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem former health minister, said it was a “truly feeble response to a national crisis”, arguing it was an unfair way to raise money that would increase inequalities.

Two Conservative MPs – Jo Churchill and Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health committee – called on the government to come up with a longer-term solution to the problems with adult social care, which are putting pressure on NHS bed capacity.

It was met with disappointment by local councils, who believe they need more help from central government to solve the long-term crisis in social care. Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle council and Labour lead on the Local Government Association, said it was a “huge missed opportunity” and the government had “just kicked the can down the road a bit”.

Medical organisations warned that it could lead to the NHS becoming “paralysed” this winter. One of the NHS’s top doctors warned that what he called an inadequate response to the “national crisis” of social care threatened to “tip the NHS over the edge this winter”.

Dr Mark Holland, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that simply raising the council tax precept for social care was “too little too late”, given the scale of the problem.

He said: “Regardless of today’s announcement, the current scale of the problem is enough to tip the NHS over the edge this winter. This is too little, too late. The government has decimated the social care funding and demonstrated its disregard for the situation and its impact on the NHS by failing to acknowledge it in the recent autumn statement. If we arrive in January with the NHS in England paralysed, is there a plan B?

“The prime minister must acknowledge that social care is now a national crisis. It is in a critical condition and won’t be cured with half measures. Short-term plans will struggle to fix the problem now and won’t be enough to fix the problem in the future.”

The British Red Cross said woefully inadequate social care was now “a humanitarian crisis” because of its dire human consequences. Mike Adamson, its chief executive, said: “We see people affected by this social care crisis every day – people sent home from hospital without clothes, falling and not being found for days, not being washed because there is no carer to help them. This is a humanitarian crisis that needs urgent action.

“We are pleased the government has recognised something needs to be done. However, this is not an adequate solution. This will also not plug the existing funding gap, let alone allow councils to work towards a sustainable health and social care system and invest in prevention. If more people are helped before their problems become crises, this would alleviate some of the pressures on our social care services. We stand ready to work with government to find a much-needed long-term solution.”


Rowena Mason and Denis Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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