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Minister drawn into Lib Dem care funding row

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A top-level meeting was taking place at the Liberal Democrat conference on Tuesday afternoon to try to resolve a row over policy on funding social care.

The conference defeated a call by the Lib Dem LGA group to include in its pre-manifesto – the documents from which the party general election manifesto will be drawn – a call for integrated NHS and social care budgets guaranteed to rise by at least inflation.

Hertfordshire CC councillor Chris White, who moved the amendment, said this was essential to enable local government to meet the demand-led costs of adult social care and to deliver more efficient use of money.

But Duncan Brack, who is co-ordinating the manifesto, told the conference the guaranteed link to inflation was unaffordable and that the amendment failed to make clear whether it was talking about integrating the two budgets at local or national level.

Mr Brack said: “There isn’t a national social care budget to integrate. One of the things we have done in government is give local authorities power to decide their spending on that.”

Cllr White told an LGA fringe meeting immediately afterwards that Mr Brack had “not understood the amendment”.

He said: “It was obvious it did not mean national integration”.

Cllr White left the fringe meeting for an urgent meeting with education minister David Laws, who is in overall charge of the manifesto, to try to resolve the dispute.

“We were talking about local integration and councils need the money to pay for social care,” he added.

Meanwhile, Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander told the same LGA meeting that he was considering a role for central government in trying to ensure that the party’s policy of building 300,000 new homes a year could be delivered.

“We rely on housing associations, local authorities and the private sector to do that, and if they can that’s great but I think central government may need a commissioning role to make sure it happens, as a sort of backstop,” he said.

Mr Alexander said he had not fully worked up the idea yet, but had Treasury civil servants working on it.

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