We have provided substantial additional funding to councils to meet the costs of free personal care, but the impact on council budgets will depend on the spending decisions that each council takes, which will reflect local needs and priorities.
Does the minister agree that the figures of £145 for personal care and £65 for nursing care, which were introduced back in 2002, no longer cover the real costs that councils pay for those services? Wales now offers £107.63 for nursing care and Northern Ireland provides £100, but in Scotland the council tax payer is bearing the brunt of the cost of a policy that the Executive heralds as a flagship. When will the Executive put its money where its mouth is?
It is hard to see how the council tax payer is bearing the brunt of the policy when 80 per cent of local government revenue comes from the Executive and only 20 per cent comes from council tax revenue. Considerable sums are being invested in free personal care. The figure will rise from £153 million in 2005-06 to £162 million in 2006-07, and it will go up again to £169 million in the final year of the spending review period.
It is important to remember two points. First, we are still in the middle of a spending review period. When another spending review comes along, all spending decisions will be reviewed. Secondly, it is important to remember that councils were always funded to pay for the provision of personal care services to people who could not afford them. The sums that will be provided in the three years that I mentioned are on top of the revenue stream that has always been made available to councils to pay for the provision of such services to over-65s.