More care cuts in store as council budgets face 1.7% fall next year

Government unveils third year of reductions in council budgets, heralding further cuts to adult social care and increased pressure to maintain children's services spending.

The 1.7% reduction does not take account of inflation

Social care funding will come under further strain next year as the government announced that English councils would face a 1.7% reduction in their budgets next year.

The figure for 2013-14, which does not take inflation into account, comes on top of estimated cash reductions of 3.3% in 2012-13 and 4.7% in 2011-12.

The cut takes into account direct government funding for councils next year, estimated revenues from council tax and the £859m that the NHS is due to transfer to councils next year to fund adult social care services that will also benefit the health service.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said the settlement was a “fair funding deal that will reward councils that strive to do their best for their communities”, citing a new scheme that will enable councils to retain a share of the growth of business rates in their areas.

However, Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “Local councils are already under the government’s financial cosh and today’s cuts will push many more vital services over the edge. Around the country libraries, day centres, and youth clubs are closing, care is being rationed as eligibility criteria become ever tighter, and young people find careers advice has all but disappeared.”

The cuts in government funding for councils from 2011-13 translated into reductions of almost £2bn in adult social care expenditure over the two years, once adjustment had been made for inflation and demographic pressures, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ annual budget surveys.

In both 2011-12 and 2012-13, the majority of savings came from efficiencies rather than service reductions or increased charges for service users. However, Adass has warned that councils’ ability to stave off service reductions was increasingly limited. A report last month from the Audit Commission said that councils had successfully protected children’s social care in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.  However, this comes amid significant pressures with 2012 being a record year for applications for care proceedings.

Today’s settlement follows the government’s autumn statement, in which chancellor George Osborne announced that cuts to councils in 2014-15 would be deeper than previously assumed to the tune of £445m. In addition, Osborne pencilled in further reductions in government spending for local authorities until 2018, extending the era of austerity by a further year.

Alongside today’s settlement announcement, the Department for Communities and Local Government has published a guide to saving money for authorities, with 50 examples of how authorities can make savings. Among ways of saving money in social care, it suggests:

  • Pooling budgets with the NHS;
  • Using procurement consortia to purchase social care equipment or services across multiple authorities;
  • Giving people on direct payments prepaid bank cards.

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