A few weeks ago, the Communities Secretary wrote to local authority leaders thanking councils for their exceptional service during the COVID pandemic. He highlighted social care as being an important part of the response and spoke about extra funding going forward. Ministers had originally promised that councils would get “whatever it takes” to tackle the pandemic though predictably additional money often fell short of the actual costs to councils, adding pressure to their already stretched budgets.
But even the new money from Government has conditions attached. For example, the Government expects most of the extra money for social care funding will come from councils levying an extra 3% social care precept on the council tax and allowing a further 2% rise for other essential council services. Councillors, like MP’s when Government grants are announced, face the same dilemma – accept what’s on offer or risk scuppering the whole thing.
Councils face serious financial challenges on social care where there remains a long-term funding issue anyway. But they also face other challenges too; schools need extra help during the pandemic, tackling homelessness is costly and when victims of domestic abuse receive greater protection in law, recompense from central Government to local authorities rarely meets the true cost.
Ducking tough financial decisions usually only serves to make stretched finances more precarious and eventually impacts on services, nationally and locally. At the outset of this pandemic we, the public, put our hands together to clap for carers. Now, in this time of a national health crisis, we need show our commitment to our much-needed local services.”