Some senior government ministers do not fully understand the seriousness of the funding crisis facing social care services, according to the chair of the Local Government Association.
While Lord Porter (Con) welcomed reports ministers are considering raising council tax to help ease the social care funding pressures, he said that alone would not be enough.
A number of options “for this year and next” are being considered by ministers, said Lord Porter who added he hoped that the larger allocation of Better Care Fund planned for later in this parliament would be brought forward to deal with immediate social care pressures.
Although communities secretary Sajid Javid was “making the case” to cabinet colleagues for action on social care, Lord Porter told LGC: “I still do not think everybody around that cabinet table understands how serious this is because we haven’t had anybody floating out really good solutions.
“I’m sure if other departments knew how this impacted on them they would be.”
It has been widely reported that the government will announce in the local government financial settlement this week that councils can increase the social care precept beyond the 2% currently permitted above regular council tax.
But the large gap in social care funding – predicted by the LGA to be £2.6bn by 2020 – could not be addressed by increasing the precept alone, said Lord Porter, as there were wide variations in the amount of money that councils could generate across the country.
Lord Porter told LGC: “Any flexibilities around council tax precept are good but it is not the solution to this problem.
“There are some areas where council tax does not raise a lot of money because there are mostly band A and B properties and yields are quite low.
“This is a national scale problem and you are not going to solve it on a piecemeal local basis.”
Lord Porter did not believe reports that the government would attempt to claw back revenue raised from council tax above the referendum thresholds later in the parliament as he said “council tax does not belong to government - it belongs to local people”.
Lord Porter said the government should consider “top-slicing money off” other departments outside the Department for Communities & Local Government to help tackle the funding problem as it would help to reduce general costs elsewhere in the long-run.
He said: “They really need to start to look at top-slicing money off of other spending departments.
“This is not a DCLG problem, it is a government problem. The solution can come from DCLG but this belongs to the cabinet, it does not belong to one department.”
Lord Porter also said he would like to see the government review spending on measures to support people later in life, such as concessionary travel on public transport, winter fuel payments and the triple lock on pensions.
“There are lots of pots of money that benefit older people that could be used differently,” he said.