The former care minister Norman Lamb (Lib Dem) has accused the Local Government Association of providing “cover” for his successor to abandon the planned cap on care costs that he helped introduce.
Mr Lamb said the LGA had been “wrongheaded” to ask the health secretary to postpone the introduction of the £72,000 ceiling on the amount older people would pay towards their own care.
The government had been due to lay secondary legislation before parliament in the autumn to introduce the cap.
Its introduction was effectively shelved when the government announced last week that it was delaying the implementation of the part of the Care Act that would introduce the cap from April 2016 until 2020.
Mr Lamb, who as care minister in the Department of Health during the last parliament was heavily involved with the development of the policy, told LGC the government was effectively abandoning it.
He said it was “blindingly obvious” that if the cap was being delayed because of financial pressures it would never be implemented.
He added: “Does anyone anywhere remotely believe that the financial pressures [in social care] are going to be easier in 2020 than 2016?”
Mr Lamb said it was “only because of the Lib Dems” that the policy had made it into the statute books and claimed it had not been popular with chancellor George Osborne.
He added: “I understand why the LGA asked for a delay but they were wrongheaded.
“They should have asked for more funding… instead of that they have in fact provided the Conservatives with cover to abandon it.”
Announcing the delay in a letter to the LGA, Mr Lamb’s successor as care minister, Alistair Burt, said the care cap proposals were “expected to add £6bn to public sector spending over the next five years”.
He added that a period of “consolidation” was the wrong time to implement “expensive new commitments such as this”.
Mr Burt also announced that the implementation of the duty on councils to meet the eligible needs of self-funders in care homes will also be deferred until April 2020 as will the planned system for allowing individuals to appeal local authority decisions.
The care minister added that this would be considered as part of the spending review.
The delay to the £72,000 ceiling follows a warning from the LGA last month that it would be “deeply damaging” to implement the cap without addressing the funding gap in social care.
In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the association called for its implementation to be postponed.
The LGA had not responded to Mr Lamb’s comments at the time of publication however a spokeswoman pointed out the letter to Mr Hunt stressed councils did not want to see the policy abandoned all together.
Commenting on the delay, Izzi Seccombe (Con), chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board and leader of Warwickshire CC, said: “In an ideal world, we would have funding for both the system and the reforms but we have to be realistic about where scarce resources are needed most.”
The LGA and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have called for the money earmarked for the implementation of the cap to be invested in social care services.
The government is unlikely to take a decision on this until the comprehensive spending review is completed in November.