Local authority leaders have warned that councils could struggle to maintain adult social care services in the face of a funding shortfall of up to £20bn a year by 2015.
In its submission to the comprehensive spending review (CSR), the Local Government Association states that councils could be forced to make cuts to adults’ and children’s services unless the government goes much further in devolving responsibility to local areas.
The LGA’s estimate of a funding shortfall of £20bn is based on expected government cuts in the CSR and increases in demand for services, including social care.
Among these are:
• Anticipated cuts in central government grant funding, other than schools funding, of 20%.
• An estimated £5.6bn increase in the cost of adult social care by 2015, to meet the needs of the UK’s growing ageing population.
• Covering the costs of predicted increases in demand for primary school places, children’s services and child protection costs, potentially leading to a £5bn rise over four years.
• A potential increase of up to 20% in the £1.1bn cost of concessionary bus travel for pensioners.
It warned: “Reducing spending on statutory services without adjusting service levels will be a real challenge, particularly where local authorities have limited influence over demand, as for example in social care and waste.”
The LGA is calling for wholesale reform of the way the public sector operates.
This includes the integration of health and social care policy; the removal of all ring-fencing on local authority budgets and for funding for local public services to be pooled into local budgets – to save up to £100bn over five years.
Baroness Margaret Eaton, chair of the LGA, said: “[Councils] have made huge efficiency savings in recent years, and the scope to make further savings without cutting services is limited.”
She added: “Local public services like after-school clubs, meals on wheels and care for the elderly or youth work should not be put at risk because of Whitehall turf wars with civil servants refusing to devolve their department’s budget because central government knows best.”
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