Time is running out for the Government to announce how social care will be paid for from 2021 amid fears that “big gaps” will open up, according to Bath & North East Somerset Council leaders.
A green paper on future funding has been delayed six times since being promised in the March 2017 Budget.
It means local authorities are still in the dark and cannot plan ahead, as there has been no indication from Westminster about the kind of reforms to be proposed.
Council leader Dine Romero and deputy leader Richard Samuel raised the issue at a health and care board meeting where members discussed how the 2019/20 Better Care Fund — £70.1 million of government cash ? would be spent jointly with B&NES CCG, mostly on community health care and social care.
Cllr Romero said: “I am concerned about the money part of it, particularly the Better Care Fund.
“That’s the main part of the pooled budget.
“What happens after 2021 if there has been no movement from government to replace this with something else?”
Cllr Samuel said: “Better Care Fund has been in action for six years or so and we have come to a good place in working.
“But the environment around us is shifting every year and we are heading to a bad place in 2021 becasuse we will see the loss of public health grants and the ending of the main revenue support grant.”
He said this, coupled with £2.3million the council would lose from a reduction in the amount it can retain from business rates, presented “a considerable risk, particularly because of the lack of announcements from the Government and the future uncertainty”.
Cllr Samuel added: “Unfortunately the political instability that exists at the national level is a very poor environment in which to make sensible budget decisions.
“The board should acknowledge that risk is there for the future and it is not resolved.
“The Government’s failure to commit proper funding for social care is a serious problem that cannot be ignored for much longer.
“We are six months away from putting together the details of next year’s budget, yet we have no information about the big gaps that could potentially open up.
“It’s a difficult environment for us and there is a limited amount we can do in terms of lobbying.”
B&NES Council head of management accounts Andy Rothery told the meeting at Bath Guildhall on Tuesday, June 4: “This is something we are watching very closely with financial planning.
“Councils and CCGs around the country have become reliant on this funding because it is funding care packages and other areas.
“We are assuming the funding will continue because of the reliance created on council funding streams.
“But there is a risk that if the funding is reduced, it will have an impact on financial planning for the council.”
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter