A group of Conservative MPs have threatened to vote against the government over funding for social care services in rural areas.
At least six and possibly more than 15 Conservative MPs are understood to be prepared to rebel in a House of Commons vote on the issue next week, when the final local government finance settlement is expected to be published.
As the Conservatives have formed a minority government, the loss of support from backbenchers could see the party lose the vote.
Daniel Kawczynski (Con), MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, and the main leader of the rebels, today tweeted: “Shropshire Council is facing a black hole of £10 million to pay for rising costs of Adult Social Care. I cannot support proposed settlement until government finds more money to help my Council meet these costs.”
Mr Kawczynski, accompanied by Ludlow MP Philip Dunne (Con), is reported by the Shropshire Star to have met with housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid on a number of occasions in the past week to discuss the issue. Telford MP Lucy Allan (Con) has also backed their campaign.
In prime minister’s questions yesterday, Mr Kawczynski said: “A group of us from the shire counties are very concerned that there is not enough money for rural counties like ours, where adult social care costs are spiralling out of control.”
In response, David Lidington, who was standing in for Theresa May, said the government had “made an extra £2bn of funding available to local authorities for social care” and added councils are currently deciding on whether to “use the more flexible precepting powers they have in respect of social care”. He urged Mr Kawczynski to “continue talking to the communities secretary and other ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government about the particular circumstances in Shropshire”.
LGC previously reported that counties were disappointed the transition grant – which had totalled £292m over the past two years – had not been extended into 2018-19.
The chair of the County all-party parliamentary group Peter Aldous (Con) has written to the chancellor and Mr Javid ahead of a debate on the final local government finance settlement, due next week.
LGC understands a central demand is that new money must be found by the Treasury to help councils in rural areas fund social care services.
Last year, there was an extension to the adult social care support grant, paid for through a redistribution of new homes bonus payments, but LGC revealed at the time how this left a third of top tier councils worse off. LGC understands there is unlikely to be a repeat of that and it is hoped new money, which could be distributed through a relative needs formula, can be found instead.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government is due to conduct consultations later in February on how to adequately fund increased cost drivers as part of the fair funding review. Stuart Hoggan, deputy director for local government finance at MHCLG, said at an LGA conference last month that a future formula would “try and reflect the extra cost” of rural services.