Handing local government responsibility for the attendance allowance as part of business rates reforms is “no longer being considered”, the communities secretary has announced.
Speaking at the Local Government Association’s councillors forum today, Sajid Javid also reiterated his claim that the 2017-18 provisional finance settlement contained £900m “additional” funding for adult social care and said he would have to “agree to disagree” with anyone who said it was not new money.
During a question and answer session, Mr Javid defended moving £241m of new homes bonus funding to adult social care despite the fact it left a third of top-tier councils out of pocket, as well as all districts. He said there are “no new funds” and it was a case of “setting priorities”.
“There is more work to be done on adult social care,” he said. “I recognise it’s both resources and reforms.”
LGA chair Lord Porter (Con) warned last July that any government insistence that councils would have to finance a new responsibility for the attendance allowance through full business rates retention could be “a deal breaker”.
To warm applause from councillors across the political spectrum Mr Javid said attendance allowance “will not be included” in any potential list of responsibilities devolved to local government.
He said arguments that giving councils the ability to raise the care precept by an extra 1% in each of the next two financial years had effectively shifted taxation responsibility on to local authorities were misplaced as “it’s not our money, it’s not your money, it’s [taxpayers] money”. Giving councils that power meant the money raised could be spent on social care in those communities, he added.
Mr Javid said the government would be publishing an integration and better care fund policy framework “soon”.
When asked if he had any contingency plans should a major national care provider pull out of the market, Mr Javid said he was “very much alive” to the funding pressures and added the government did monitor and support care providers.
On devolution Mr Javid stressed he was “not going cold” on that agenda but said the government would “prioritise areas showing consensus” and where there is a likelihood agreements will not fall apart at the final hurdle. Deals for Greater Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, and the North East all fell by the wayside when backbench councillors voted on the proposals.
“It has to be something all local people believe in,” said Mr Javid.
On Monday Mr Javid told MPs the housing white paper would be published shortly – it is due this month.
Mr Javid told councillors at the LGA that the white paper was “not going to be tinkering around the edges” and would “set out serious, long term, lasting reforms”.
But when asked if the government would relax the housing revenue account borrowing cap for local authorities, Mr Javid said it was important central government kept control of the country’s balance sheet. “There are other ways we can provide help,” he said.
Challenged further on the issue, and the fact councils can borrow whatever they like for other infrastructure projects, Mr Javid said: “It’s something I will take a closer look at and make sure the rules are fit for purpose.”