Councillors say they have “no option” but to take a 3% rise in council tax to pay for social care as some raise fears of the impact of government changes.
Lincolnshire County Council’s Adults and Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee voted to approve the tax rise, proposed by executive and due to go to consultation, on Wednesday but said there were “huge” cost pressures and tough choices to come.
The rise in tax equates to around £40 on a band D property — and officers estimated the rise will bring in and extra £9.567million. However, social care itself faces pressures of around £13 million.
The county will receive a number of government grants which will help balance the budget, however faces a number of cost increases predominantly driven by the rates paid for care, increases in national living wage, an increase in demand and Fair Cost of Care reforms.
Chairman, Councillor Hugo Marfleet, told the committee: “There’s no choice but to do the 3%.
“It highlights in some sense that we can hold back at times, but we never know what next year brings and there is always a sense of trying to manage these in an appropriate way because this year financially, suddenly there’s a lot of pressure coming out.”
However, he said innovation was key, as well as improvements including new processes and technological enhancements.
Former Lincoln Labour MP Councillor Karen Lee said changes brought in by government around how care was funded would benefit the wealthier and were “not fair” while Councillor Mark Whittington said he was concerned that since private people would not be subsidising public care as much that “the amount council has to pay will go up to cover the gap”.
“We have no option but to increase the precept by 3% but I think this is probably a holding position for a year because I’m not quite sure what the government’s are actually doing,” he said.
“They may decide to come back with next year’s financial settlement to do something a bit different, but I’ve got real I’ve got real alarm bells ringing in my mind about the cost pressures that’s coming down the track to all local authorities.”
He said he was particularly concerned around smaller healthcare providers being forced out by larger chains and care losing its personalised feel, instead becoming more “automated”.
Councillor Rob Kendrick said: “We have to go with the 3% but it seems to be another case of government passing things down to local authorities to deal with and not necessarily fully funding things.”
Councillors also said more needed to be done to improve staff training and retention, with the committee agreeing to bring the topic back in full at a later point.
However, Councillor Colin Matthew said work was being done to improve the situation.
“We’re running a very tight ship here and I think we’re doing some really good work in terms of training and promoting our own staff,” he said, adding that some comments were “beating ourselves up, quite unnecessarily”.