Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer refuses to commit to giving councils more money to limit tax rises

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting at Bassetlaw Hospital (LDRS)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting at Bassetlaw Hospital (LDRS)
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

Sir Keir Starmer says his party will get a “grip” on social care if it wins the General Election – but he has also stopped short of committing extra money for cash-strapped councils to stop them taxing households more.

The Labour leader paid a visit to Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop alongside shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on Saturday, June 15, two days after the party unveiled its manifesto.

In the manifesto, Labour committed to social care reform. It is a sector many councils, including Nottingham City Council, have been struggling with due to demand and costs.

Adult and children’s social care accounts for more than 60 per cent of the City Council’s annual budget, and soaring costs in the sector are contributing to a number of local authorities ending up in financial trouble.

The costs of support for rising homelessness further brings this figure up to 80 per cent, leaving just 20 per cent of the council’s budget for other provision.

As a result, many local authorities have been increasing council tax, including the social care precept, and cutting services.

While Labour says it would not increase taxes on working people, councils across the country are being forced to increase local taxes to help fund services and set balanced budgets.

Asked if his party would commit more money to local authorities to avoid further hikes to council tax, Sir Keir said: “On tax on working people let me be really clear, we will not be increasing tax on working people.

“So that means no increase in income tax, in National Insurance and VAT.

“I absolutely understand the pressures on our councils that have been underfunded and not supported for many, many years to a point where many voters are now worried about the basic provision of services.

“That is intolerable. I do think there are things we can do. A longer term settlement will help because the money can then be used more effectively.

“We can deal with the no-fault evictions, which in too many cases now put added burden on councils, and of course if we are able to stabilise the economy quickly that will help bring the inflation rates down, but we intend to make sure services are back to the standard people would expect.”

Reforming the social care sector has been in consideration now for more than 11 years, after Sir Andrew Dilnot was commissioned by the coalition Government to review and recommend how best to reform social care and reduce costs.

In 2021 then-Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to fix adult social care “once and for all”, however the Government abandoned the implementation of charging reforms and delayed further action, largely due to costs.

Money from the proposed reforms was instead channelled into social care grant funding instead.

Sir Keir Starmer at Bassetlaw Hospital (LDRS)

On how a Labour government would reform the sector, Sir Keir said: “It is a genuine serious problem that has not been addressed in the last 14 years, and made worse, frankly, under this government.

“We will, if we come into power, grip it. We will set about a National Care Service, and that means straight away changing the structure and paying conditions for staff because at the moment they are very fragmented.

“They are often poorly paid, so much so many of them often leave and leave to the NHS where they can get career progression.

“With our fair pay agreement we can have a settlement across the country that addresses those issues. That will then be the bedrock of building the National Care Service on top of that.”

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