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CFOs of English councils claim adult and children’s social care services are facing the most significant budgetary pressures in comparison to other services, according to data gathered by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) as part of its annual CFO confidence survey.
When asked which three areas are under the greatest budget pressures, 86% of CFOs identified adult social care, with virtually the same percentage also naming children’s social care (85%).
This comes as reports indicate the government is set to encourage local authorities in England and Wales to raise the social care precept even further to boost adult and children’s services. This is despite mounting evidence that calls into question whether the precept is the fairest solution to the funding shortfall.
The survey also reveals that CFOs are significantly less confident in the ability of their council to keep delivering services in the next financial year in comparison to this year. Thirty-eight percent of CFOs are ‘less confident’ in their organisation's ability to deliver services in 2017/18, compared to 15% for 2016/17.
Sean Nolan, Director of Local Government at CIPFA, said:
“Clearly, despite the introduction of the social care precept, adult and children’s social care services are still facing the greatest budgetary pressures.
“In an attempt to reduce the stress and strain on the sector, it seems likely that the government may relax council tax levels even further.
“This might come as a welcome relief to many councils. However, there is concern that the benefits of the precept fall inconsistently, as the areas least able to raise revenue through council tax are often the areas that have the highest levels of need, and vice versa. The sticking plaster of the precept is, in any case, probably too little and too late to stop a major crisis in social care services.
“All the evidence CIPFA is receiving is indicating that the continuing rise in spending on social care is putting a squeeze on other services. Councils can't defy gravity, keep taking so much money out of the system, and expect all their services to stand up.
“CIPFA believes that the government must take a strategic and long term approach to funding levels for health and social care together, rather than continuing to rely on short term financial fixes.”
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CIPFA sent questionnaires to 443 local authorities in England. This includes councils, police and fire authorities, transport authorities, waste authorities and national parks. Overall 227 questionnaires were returned giving a survey response rate of 51.2%.