An extra £1.2bn is due to be spent on adult social care services by councils this year, while many other services will suffer severe cuts.
Of the additional funds for adult social care, less than half (46%) is attributed to money raised from the social care precept - £552m in 2017-18. Overall expenditure on adult social care has risen to £15.6bn compared to £14.4bn in 2016-17.
As well as money raised by the social care precept, this year councils received £1.1bn of improved better care fund money for social care. In addition, £241m was redirected from the new homes bonus although only £75m of this was new money for top tier councils that provide social care.
The fact the total budget increase is less than the total £1.6bn additional cash available for social care suggests councils would likely have made significant budget reductions without it.
Budgeted spending on children’s social care is also up, with an extra £193m forecast to be spent on top of the £7.8bn budgetd for in 2016-17. However, other budgets, including highways and cultural services, face steep cuts.
As a result the total budgeted service expenditure remains almost unchanged from 2016-17 at about £90.9bn, according to figures published by the Department for Communities & Local Government today.
Of the different types of councils, only shire counties are budgeting an overall increase in their revenue expenditure. In 2017-18, expenditure for shire counties is expected to be up £110m, or 0.4%, on the £25.8bn budgeted the previous year. This is a result of increased spending on adult social care services, the report said.
Metropolitan councils are set to see the biggest absolute and proportional reductions. Their budgets are being reduced by £367m to £18.3bn – a 2% reduction.
London boroughs have the second biggest decline (1.2%) with £167m due to be taken off the £14bn budgeted in 2016-17. Conversely, the Greater London Authority’s revenue expenditure budget is increasing by £661m but DCLG’s report attributed that to “increased capital financing passing through the revenue account”.
Meanwhile, there is a £174m increase in the expenditure of ‘other authorities’, which includes waste and transport authorities. “This is due to the expanded remit and changing responsibilities of the six mayoral combined authorities,” the report said.
Cultural services is to take the biggest proportional hit to its budget. It is due to be reduced by £161m which equates to almost 7% of the £2.3bn budgeted spend in 2016-17.
Money spent on highways and public transport is also declining. That is down £162m, equivalent to a 3.7% reduction on the previous year’s £4.4bn budget.
The biggest reduction overall is in education services (-£868m) but the ongoing trend “continues to be driven by local authority schools changing status to centrally funded academies”, the DCLG’s report said.
Grants including the new homes bonus and public health are being cut, although the majority of the latter’s £275m reduction attributed to the £213m Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities have “foregone in return for an equivalent increase in retained business rates”, the report said.
Councils will used £1.4bn of reserves to fund services in 2017-18, down by almost a quarter (23%) on 2016-17.