By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
A Conservative county councillor has reiterated his calls for the Tory Government to “act, respond and intervene” with financial help for councils in funding upcoming social care reforms.
Tory-led Nottinghamshire County Council has said it been “utterly transparent” about the financial difficulties it expects to face in implementing planned changes in adult social care.
Estimates from the council suggest as much as £90m in extra cash could be needed to pay for Government-led reforms, with one major change alone projected to leave a £32.75m budget black hole.
The planned reform, called ‘Fair Cost of Care’, would see the authority increasing the amount it pays care agencies from about £19 to £23.50 per hour, costing £41.57m to deliver.
However, latest Whitehall projections suggest the authority may only get about £8.82m from Whitehall to implement the change.
Other reforms include enforcing the £86,000 lifetime cap on the cost of someone’s care, which is projected to cost East Midlands councils between £617m and £743m over a decade.
And there are other additional costs for East Midlands authorities in creating 221 care workers and 45 financial assessor roles to bring the reforms forwards.
The Tory-led authority has previously said it may be forced to cut other services if Government intervention and clarification do not come forwards.
And Melanie Brooks, corporate director for social care, has written to ministers to say current funding projections will not be “sufficient” to meet the reforms’ objectives.
Now Councillor Matt Barney (Con), portfolio holder for adult social care, has reiterated this stance and confirmed “money will need to follow” to enable the authority to push forwards.
Speaking in the full council meeting on Thursday (September 22), he said: “If reform proceeds along the lines set out today, money will need to follow to implement the reforms.
“Given the majority of the major source of new money coming on stream is the health and social care levy, we are lobbying Government to listen.
“We’re lobbying Government to act, to respond, to intervene – call it what you will – but we want to ensure a sufficient portion of that funding comes here to Nottinghamshire County Council.”
His comment came in response to a question from Cllr David Martin (Ash Ind), deputy chairman of the adult social care and public health select committee, who raised concerns about council budgets.
He said: “Almost all councils responding to a Local Government Association survey on the social care reforms say they don’t have the confidence that funding earmarked for the reserves is sufficient.
“This has the potential to tip Nottinghamshire County Council over a financial edge.
“Unless action is taken and the Government rethinks its plans, people who draw on care within Nottinghamshire will experience reductions in the quality of care available and support services or other services will have to be cut.
“If Government intervention is not forthcoming, what would he rather see? Reductions in the quality of care, or other services?”
In response, Cllr Barney mentioned work done by Cllr Ben Bradley MP (Con), the council’s leader and Mansfield MP, who has been using his dual role to hold discussions with ministers about the reforms.
Cllr Barney adds that he will “do what I can” to support care services and believes no councillor in the chamber “wants to see services cut”.
He added: “Whether that’s bus services, educational services or, most acutely, services with adult social care. This service is changing and affecting the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and my heart is with all those people.
“I will do all I can to fight the best case I can while I’m in this job, for those people and for those lives that matter so much.”
A Department for Health spokesperson said: “Reforming adult social care is a priority and we are investing £5.4bn over the next three years to end spiralling care costs and support the workforce.
“This includes £3.6 billion to reform the social care charging system and enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, and a further £1.7 billion to begin major improvements across adult social care in England
“Our investment is on top of record annual funding to help councils respond to rising demands and cost pressures.”