In his latest report David Plank alerts us to cuts in services being made by local councils.
Successive reductions in government funding since the first austerity budget in 2011 after the great financial crash are removing £24.7 billion a year from councils in England. By 2014 this had already been halved and the rest will go by 2020.
In Cambridgeshire, funding to the County Council of £111 million a year in 2010 fell to £72 million a year by 2014 and will be removed altogether by 2019. If this had been continued, as it should have been, and increased for inflation and the huge growth in the number of very elderly people offset by real efficiency savings, it would by that same year have been £145 million a year. This is the real effect since 2010 of the austerity driven policy of the coalition and now Conservative governments.
Localisation will not make up the gap
Contrary to government rhetoric this is not being made up by the so called “localisation” of council funding through council tax and business rates. Strict government controls mean these have not increased. This gaping hole in funding has led to date to “savings” of £225 million a year by the County Council including £175 million a year in services for children and adults.
Yet more cuts will take place in the coming year of £29 million and £20.5 million a year for the council and the social care services which will rise by 2020 to £101 million and £42 million a year respectively. And this leaves savings of £38 million a year yet to be allocated in later years much of which will come from social care due to its share of the overall budget. These are huge sums when seen against the huge savings already made.
Reliance on Council Tax hurts those least able to pay
Nor will the much vaunted council tax “social care precept” and addition to the Better Care Fund make a real difference. Reliance on council tax hurts most those least able to pay. Due to the scrapping of Council Tax Benefit in the “welfare reforms”, council tax is now akin to the detested poll tax. For this reason alone the £2 billion extra a year in 2020 claimed by the government is likely to be at best £1 billion a year. And the extra £1.5 billion a year by 2020 for the Better Care Fund is not new money at all as it is top sliced from existing NHS budgets – and more than half is spent on community health services not social care.
In any event the sums involved “pale into insignificance” when set against the huge sums of government funding being removed altogether. The assertion that these additional funds will protect social care requires “extraordinary exercise of the proverbial smoke and mirrors”, David says.
Basic social care down to the bone
As a result yet more cuts are being made in basic social care services. This time round, there seems to be an orchestrated attempt locally to mask the real effects of the cuts on social care services for adults. The “risk assessments” of previous years are nowhere to be seen and many of the savings are put forward as service improvements.
Yet in last year’s budget two thirds of the savings were rated red – the highest level of risk. In reality the savings are tighter and ever tighter rationing of reducing resources to growing numbers of vulnerable adults and children in need.
Despite all the puff about “transforming lives”, “assistive technology” and “community resilience”, this represents cuts in service and yet more transfer of responsibility to hard pressed, often frail and vulnerable carers. Provision hard won over decades to help include disabled people in the mainstream of society already much eroded in past years cuts, is to be cut yet again.
Inhumane policy in brutal operation
David concludes “This is the inhumane expression of neoliberal policy and the residual state it advocates in full brutal operation. Minimal provision is made for the most deprived which is then controlled by tighter and tighter rationing criteria with the real burden being transferred away from the State, i.e. us, to people in need, their carers and volunteers. The State which should be the collective expression of our common humanity is become a mere remainder.”
David’s short report can be downloaded here.
Picture courtesy Bournemouth Borough Council.
*This post was updated as of 24 February 2017 to show figures following the final budget decisions of the Cambridgeshire County Council.*