In addition to the spending review package, the Government provided a further £2 billion for adult social care at last year’s Budget and an additional £150 million in the most recent local government finance settlement. As a result, councils will be able to increase spending on adult social care in real terms each year until 2020.
Kirklees Council spends 35% of its budget on adult social care. It has just raised its council tax by 6%, and half of that is ring-fenced to fund social care, but the council will still have to cut tens of millions in the years ahead. So, ahead of tomorrow’s spring statement, will the Minister tell us what he has done to secure more funding from the Treasury for social care to alleviate the pressure on councils such as Kirklees?
In the most recent local government finance settlement, the Secretary of State listened to councils’ concerns and increased funding for adult social care by £150 million, with £26 million for Kirklees Council in particular. I recently met the Key Cities group, of which Kirklees is a member, to discuss its ideas for reforming the funding formula so as to adequately reflect the pressures faced by councils such as Kirklees.
When the then Communities and Local Government Committee adopted the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend Bob Blackman that became the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, Ministers, to their credit, engaged really positively to make that Bill work. May I urge the Minister to be just as positive about the planned joint Committee inquiry into the funding of adult care? Indeed, Front Benchers on both sides of the House will need to engage with that process if we are to have a long-term answer.
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, the Government are committed to publishing a Green Paper on adult social care this summer. Alongside that, there is a workstream on working-age adult social care to which I am sure that he will be keen to contribute.
Increasing the social care precept will do nothing to solve the challenge that we face in social care. Is it not time that Ministers stopped passing the buck to local councils and instead worked with us to try to find a long-term solution to one of the greatest challenges that we face as a country?
I agree with the hon. Lady that this is a challenge facing our country, and it is important that we get this right and put social care on a sustainable footing, not just for this year but for the years to come. That is exactly why the Government are committed to the Green Paper and to tackling this problem, and she should look forward to seeing the Green Paper’s contents this summer.
The Minister referred to the local government finance settlement, but this year’s settlement still means a cut of £177 million for adult social care compared with last year. Given that the National Audit Office’s report states that more and more councils are only just managing to balance their books by using their reserves to cover overspends on social care services, how does the Minister suggest that councils can avoid declaring themselves effectively bankrupt, as Northamptonshire County Council did last month, as in many cases their reserves will be gone by 2020?
I simply do not recognise those figures. The Government have increased funding for adult social care. Over these three years, £9.4 billion has been allocated for adult social care funding, with £150 million more at the last local government finance settlement. This Government are listening to councils and delivering extra resources to help them.
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 divorced local government funding from any assessment of need. The Government’s insistence that the problem can be solved by councils raising precepts is simply wrong, because councils in wealthier areas, which have more properties in the higher bands, can raise more money than those with more properties in the lower bands, which usually have the greatest needs, the greatest levels of long-term disease and so on. When will the Minister understand this and actually start to allocate social services funding on the basis of need?
I can reassure the hon. Lady that the allocation for social care funding does take into account the relative council tax bases of local authorities across the country. That said, I appreciate that the funding formula is out of date and in need of review, which is why we have launched a consultation on reforming it. That consultation closes today, but I would welcome her comments and input into it. We will reform the formula so that it can adequately take account of need, as she suggests.