Hartlepool council leader’s anger over social care plan

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Hartlepool’s top councillor has accused the Government of dumping the spiralling cost of social care on Council Tax payers.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will announce today that local authorities in England are to be allowed to bring forward council tax increases totalling six per cent over the next two years to pay for social care, a move which will add a total of more than £90 to the average bill for a Band D property.

Borough council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher attacked the Government for its failure to fund adult social care properly and said the cost should be met from Whitehall, rather than by Council Tax payers,

“In 2016/17 Hartlepool Council is receiving £35million less Government funding than it did in 2010/11 - around a 55% reduction,” he said.

“Central Government chose to reduce funding to Hartlepool Borough Council and this decision has directly contributed to the adult social care situation we are facing.

“The social care crisis – which is a national issue caused by Government policies - is not of local people’s making and I believe it would be fairer if the Government provided additional funding to address these pressures, rather than relying on increasing Council Tax.

“Any proposed rise in council tax precept is an unfair way to fund the gap and simply shifts the burden of a nationally recognised problem.

“It is too early to comment on Council Tax for 2017/18 as this will depend on the amount of funding the Council receives from the Government and will be set at a Full Council meeting in February.”

Charities supporting elderly and disabled recipients of social care welcomed the change as a “step in the right direction”, but said it would not fill a black hole in funding estimated to reach £2.6 billion by 2020.

The chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, Neil Heslop, said: “We are pleased that the Government has acknowledged the severe strain that social care is under. Giving local councils more flexibility to raise revenue locally is a step in the right direction.

“However, it is not an answer on its own and risks creating a postcode lottery.

“While extra money is always welcome, this will do little to plug the £2.6billion social care funding gap by 2020, particularly as the areas with the greatest need for extra funding will raise the least through the precept.”