'˜Black hole' for social care in Hertfordshire

Social care faces a £7million black hole next year '“ even if bosses at County Hall increase council tax by more than they currently plan to do.

Thursday, 5th January 2017, 1:55 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:01 pm
social care image PPP-150623-145534001

Councillor Ron Tindall, Lib Dem spokesman for adult care services at Herts County Council, has warned the funding shortfall will rise from £5million to £7million next year.

And even that is dependent upon the Tory-run authority raising council tax by one per cent more than its current plans.

Mr Tindall blames a perfect storm of an ageing population, price inflation, the rising living wage, and a nationwide funding deficit.

He told the Gazette: “If council tax was a fair tax, relying on it to plug the gap might be acceptable.

“But it is not. A millionaire can end up paying the same amount as a care worker or a nurse because of the way that the system works.

“Poor people pay a much higher proportion of their income in council tax than rich people. In places like Hertfordshire, the needs of the extremely poor will be paid for by other poor people if council tax is the only route for dealing with this problem.

“And the amount raised will vary dramatically across the country. The two per cent increase last year brought in about £360million nationally and still leaves a predicted gap of £2.7billion by 2020.”

Mr Tindall pointed to wider problems within the county’s care system, not least the decision by Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to withdraw £8.5million-worth of funding from the county council which was designed to reduce bed-blocking in hospitals.

This cut will take effect from April.

But he also saw some signs for optimism nationally, such as the call by shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb, for a cross-party agreement on how the UK’s health and care system is funded. Mr Tindall said: “We need root and branch reform of how our social care system is funded.

“I am pleased to see that the Liberal Democrats are calling for politicians to put aside their differences and do just that.”

A spokesman for Herts County Council stressed that they could not comment upon figures for individual funding streams.

However, in an official statement they said: “In February 2016 the council estimated that it would face a funding gap of £34m in 2017/18.

“Officers have been working to develop proposals to close this gap and the outcome of this work will be presented to cabinet on January 23.

“Given the scale of the financial challenge in adult social care, we cannot ignore any opportunities to raise additional money to fund vital services which help older and vulnerable people live fulfilling and independent lives.

“We would prefer to avoid asking for additional money from the taxpayers of Hertfordshire, but as this is the option presented by central government to avoid causing hardship to many elderly and vulnerable people in Hertfordshire we will have to give it careful consideration. No decisions will be made until our budget has gone through a rigorous democratic process.” in the coming weeks.”