A Con from the Conservatives?

By Mick Scrimshaw on January 8, 2016

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When we receive our Council Tax bills in a couple of months there will be a new line showing a 2% rise in the County Council’s portion of the bill for the new ‘Adult Social Care Precept’ which is a new initiative announced by George Osborne in his recent autumn Statement and is designed to address the national crisis in social care.

Because of cuts after cuts in the funding the government give to local councils, the whole system of looking after the elderly and vulnerable adults is in meltdown and on the edge of collapse.

Councils pay private care homes far less than the actual cost of them providing care and many are closing or refusing to take anyone who can’t pay for themselves, and services are being slashed and cut back across the whole sector with users being asked to fund more and more of their own essential care.

Consequently the Chancellor came up with the plan to allow council’s to charge an extra 2% more on their council tax bills, thereby doubling the extra councils can increase their bills by from 2% to 4% (Northants County Council are planning charge this extra precept and increase their bill next year by 3.95%)

But this is a con!

Firstly the extra money it will raise is a drop in the ocean and will do very little to solve the problem which has been caused by massive under investment by central government for a number of years. In Northamptonshire it will raise about £4.8m but for a service that is overspending by about £20m this year and has to find an extra £27m worth of savings next year.

It will also raise money in the wrong areas with affluent areas, where residents pay more council tax, raising proportionally much more money than the poorer ones where the actual demand for services is, so in that respect it is being unfair to both the poor who will still be denied services, and the better-off who are being over charged.

The whole system is simply designed to make the government look good so they can say that they ‘have recognised the problem in providing care, and have therefore given council’s the powers they need to deal with it. And if councils are still unable to respond to the problem, it is their fault and not ours!’

A complete con in my opinion, but that’s not the worst of it. In Northamptonshire (and I presume in other areas) every single extra penny the council raise this in this way from local tax payers has been cut from the Revenue Support Grant the government are paying the council this year. Every single penny!

The council will not get one penny more to spend on Adult Social Care than they would have done before the chancellor came up with this scheme. So all that’s happening is the financial burden is being passed from central government, who have the power to raise money in a variety of ways (not least by closing the loop holes that allow huge corporations to get away with paying no corporation tax) to the local tax payer who have no choice but to pay.

So when you get your next council tax bill and you see the extra line for a contribution to adult social care, don’t be fooled into thinking you are paying to solve the problem It’s simply a trick to try to pass the cost onto council tax payers . Local council’s will still have one hand tied behind their back and still won’t be able to provide the services they need to.

Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.

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