Local authorities are ‘the forgotten cousins’ of public expenditure, as the financial crisis facing social care gathers pace, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today.
Unite, which has 80,000 members in local government, said that the chancellor Philip Hammond needs to address the estimated £2.6 billion shortfall in local authority social care provision, as he prepares to deliver his first budget on Wednesday (8 March).
Unite said that social care needed additional new money from the chancellor and not, what it described as, ‘a futile robbing Peter to pay Paul’ financial sleight of hand.
Since 2010, local government has faced the brunt of the cuts to public spending with 37 per cent cut from the local government budget between 2010 and 2015, with a further 56 per cent due to be axed by 2019/20.
Along with Unite, the Local Government Association, the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have all called for the more than £1 billion needed to fund adult social care next year alone.
Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “For too long local government has been ‘the forgotten cousin’ when it comes to public expenditure. Since 2010, council budgets have been slashed – and then slashed some more.
“Local government, which now also has the added responsibility for ‘public health’, is faced with a growing population of the elderly and the vulnerable, yet the pot of money in real terms is rapidly diminishing.
“It is clear that certain sections of the Tory party have woken up to the scale of the impending crisis. It was the Conservative-controlled Surrey county council that was contemplating a referendum on a 15 per cent rise in council tax to pay for social care.
“What we need is genuine new money; we don’t want a futile ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’ scenario, with other vital budgets being raided by a light-fingered chancellor seeking to assuage mounting public concern.
“If the social care funding crisis is not addressed urgently, cash will be diverted from such important services as libraries, roads, youth services and parks putting a further strain on those services that local communities rely on every day.
“Britain is the world’s sixth largest economy and it is incumbent on the chancellor to find the necessary cash for local government, so that those in need of social care can live in comfort and dignity.”