A geographical divide has opened up in English adult social care spending with huge cuts in the north but budgets continuing to expand in the south.
While spending in the north and Midlands will fall by 4.7% this financial year, southern councils will boost spending on adult social care by 2.7%, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the BBC has shown.
This equates to a 2.6% decrease in spending overall, with the total reducing from £9.8bn to £9.5bn in the 73 councils surveyed.
There was a similar divide in children’s social care where cuts amounted to 7.4% in the north and Midlands and 3.5% in the south.
Councils in the North West region have been forced to consider service reductions, management restructures, tightened eligibility, increased charges and staff reductions through voluntary retirement, according to John Rutherford, chair of the region’s Association of Directors of Adult Social Services group.
He added that the re-tendering of contracts at lower costs and lower level reablement costs were on the agenda.
“Most staff are well aware of the pressures we are facing and there are fears about job security and future career prospects,” said Rutherford, Bolton Council’s director of adult and community services.
“Most councils are doing their best to protect staff and services in this scenario of pressures on resources due to the savings and the additional demand for social care due to an ageing population.”
The survey findings follow criticism of the local government settlement for targeting cuts on councils in Labour’s northern strongholds. Nationally, councils faced real-terms reductions of 28% from 2010-11 to 2014-15.
Although councils on average lost 4.4% in revenue this year, many northern authorities were landed with a loss of 9%. The Cipfa/BBC figures therefore suggest councils have tried to insulate social care from the impact of the cuts.
● Council Spending: Making it Clear is a BBC/CIPFA assessment of council spend in England for local radio, regional and network TV and BBC online.
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