Councils face £1.8 billion shortfall for social care

English councils are spending £1.8 billion above government recommendations on social care as a result of multiple service pressures and costs transferred from the NHS, town hall leaders have claimed.

The annual Association of Directors of Social Services and Local Government Association finance survey says councils increased spending on social care by more than 12 per cent in 2005-6 as a result of pressures across adult and children’s services.

However, authorities face the prospect of severe cuts in 2006-7, with half having received a sub-inflationary 2 per cent overall grant increase.

The study of 121 authorities finds that, in 2005-6, councils were anticipating spending almost £1.8 billion above formula spending share (FSS) – the government’s estimate of social care demand, upon which it bases local authority grant levels.

The gap was only £850 million in 2004-5.

ADSS resources committee co-chair Anne Williams said funding pressures had “really built up” as a result of demographic changes and NHS cuts in adult care, plus increased costs for looked-after children’s services.

She said councils had boosted spending through council tax rises, prioritising social care over other services and using reserves, but added this was storing up cuts for the future, given the poor government settlement for 2006-7.

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