Social care precept not evenly distributed

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The ability to increase council tax to pay for the cost of adult social care was revered as an important political step which recognised the need to plug the gap in funding for adult social care.  However, in reality it appears to be a regressive tax which is more effective in wealthier local authorities where their ability to successfully raise taxes is higher. The geographical disparity can see wealthier local authorities raising 3.5 times the amount of their less wealthy counterparts.

It is understandable that councils would be reluctant to pass on the funds they raise to other councils (and they are not asked to do so). However, the current rules governing the social care precept seem to be poorly thought out with a fixed rate of increase being the only option offered to all councils providing social care to adults despite differing local needs.  Those boroughs often in need of the most funding have been unable to extract funding at the desired level through this measure.

In 2016 £17 billion was spent on adult social care and the social care precept raised £382 million. Whatever the merits of this additional funding and the increased amounts that will be raised in the years to come, there are questions surrounding the even distribution of funds. The precept fails to properly target those local authorities where additional funding is required to allow them to raise council tax by the desired amount.  Council tax increases are usually frowned upon by tax payers regardless of what the tax is used to cover and it is obvious that the main source of raising funds to pay for adult social care should not be through the collection of council tax. However, if recovery of the cost of adult social care through council tax is to remain, thought should be given to establishing a better formula that ensures additional funds are able to be recovered appropriately.

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