Leeds City Council announced its budget plans last week.
This includes a proposed 3.99% council tax rise.
Given the current squeeze on incomes, that rise was proposed with the greatest reluctance – and was forced on the Council by continued central government cuts to the grant given to Leeds.
2% of the rise is specifically to fund Adult Social Care services in the city – 1.99% covers the rest of the Council’s spending.
We are dealing with the budget proposals in a series of posts.
In this one we concentrate on that 2% and Adult Social Care.

IMG_6177Adult Social Care boils down to the support many people – especially but far from solely the elderly – need to maintain independent lives lived with dignity and control. It can involve personal assistance, or structural changes to help people live in their own homes.
Local authorities – like Leeds – are responsible for providing social care services, which are also an essential part of the overall provision of healthcare. Without social support available, for example, people are kept in hospital beds longer than necessary.

Adult Social Care is currently on the edge of crisis – and it is a crisis of local government funding.
The Care Quality Commission has described adult social care as at ‘tipping point’. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chancellor-philip-hammond-urged-by-senior-tory-to-inject-money-into-nhs-amid-social-care-crisis-a7387681.html

The Tory Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board has warned that the country is facing its ‘worst ever funding crisis in social care.’
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/10/tory-plans-making-social-care-worse

Adult Social Care accounts for a huge proportion of the money which Leeds City Council spends every year.
Leeds Council’s net revenue budget is £492.4m – 67% of that entire £492.4m next year will be spent on adults’ and children’s services – a rise of 2.3% on last year.

Local councils across the country have been lobbying for extra cash to cope with the burgeoning costs of adult social care services, but none was forthcoming when the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was made.
In general Leeds faces ongoing sharp cuts in money received from central government – on top of cuts which have been going on since the LibDem/Tory Coalition took power in 2010.
But the Government has ‘allowed’ Leeds to add 2% to council tax to help fund Adult Social Care – in other words the government has ‘encouraged’ [we could think of more forceful ways of putting that] Leeds to raise that money through Council tax rather than increasing direct central government funding.

Will the 2% pay for the Adult Social Care we need in this city?
It will not.

Councils like Leeds are sticking their fingers in the dam – but we all know that in the end the dam will burst.
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, has warned many times this year that we are on the brink. She renewed her warnings about social care last week:
“Leeds has undoubtedly become a more efficient, enterprising and forward thinking council – which means we have been able to protect many council services effectively.
“However the fact demand for services continues to grow significantly places a huge amount of pressure on what is now a much reduced budget.”

So that’s the context for the 2% rise – over half of the Council tax rise proposed.
– not lightly imposed;
– ‘encouraged’ by central government to help meet a shortfall in central government funding;
– essential to help those most in need in our city.

Judith Blake should have the last word.
“We will continue to prioritise the money the council does have in supporting the most vulnerable in the city. But without a radical change in the national approach to funding local authorities the significant impact needed on deep-rooted problems associated with inner city poverty is now very hard indeed to deliver.”

At heart this is a crisis in local government funding. It’s about time the government recognised that, and acted accordingly.

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