LAs : Financial Meltdown - Nationwide / Support Services CUTS : Council Tax Rises / Arrears

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
65 posts
Andrew Vine : Harsh realities as councils pay the price of austerity.


I’D like to take the Government ministers responsible for deciding how much councils are given to spend to meet some friends of mine.

If they did, none of them could ever look the public in the eye again and claim that local authorities are anywhere near adequately funded.

The ministers would find a couple in their mid-70s increasingly struggling to care for their severely disabled son, who is in his mid-40s. At a time in their lives when they need more help, budget cuts are instead diminishing what is available to them.

Over the past few years, the day centre he attends has had its hours cut. Residential respite care that gave his parents the chance to rest and recoup what strength they could before returning to their roles as full-time carers has also been cut.

Theirs is a 24-hour job, involving lifting and feeding, frequent showers and changes of clothes and bedding because their son suffers episodes of incontinence. And his parents know that it is gradually wearing them out.

Worse than that, the rate at which it is sapping their strength is accelerating, partly because the physical effort is becoming harder as they get older, and partly because he needs more care with each passing year.

Increasingly, they are tormented by a question they ask themselves constantly. What will happen to him when we can’t cope any more?


Ministerial platitudes about providing adequate funding to councils don’t provide an answer. Nor do rebuttals by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government of the anxieties expressed by councils about the state of their finances.

This one family from West Yorkshire is emblematic of the difficulties faced by countless others not only across our region, but the entire country.

They don’t blame their local council. The staff at their son’s day centre – who care for him with the same tenderness as his parents – were as upset as they were at cuts in hours.

But in the face of a shortage of funds, something had to give and because adult social care is a high-spending area of work it was bound to suffer. And it will suffer all over again in the months to come.

Cuts that continue to shrivel public services are creating a nation of worried people and aggravating the vulnerabilities of those most in need of help.

The damage inflicted on our local authorities over the past nine years in the name of austerity is a national disgrace. The overall reduction in central funding to councils over that period amounts to 40 per cent, and the consequent increases in council tax have not prevented swingeing cuts to services.


The Government has put councils in an impossible position. Just how parlous a state many of them are in was demonstrated by last week’s survey by the Local Government Information Unit, which found that 15 councils are in danger of following Northamptonshire into insolvency.

One in 20 fears that it will not be able to provide the legal minimum level of services. Virtually all are having to dig into their dwindling financial reserves just to meet demand.


Yet the Government turns its face away, issuing a bland and disingenuous statement in which it claims to be giving local authorities an extra £1bn a year.

Tell that to the parents of a disabled adult who are struggling to cope. Or to children in need of help whose services are likely to be cut. Or to drivers whose cars are damaged by potholes that go unrepaired because there isn’t the money.

It’s utter nonsense for the Government to claim that it is providing anything like enough money to councils. Even Conservative-run authorities are critical of it.

And in this instance, it is not the case that the Government is short of money to give to councils. Without a second thought, it blew £800,000 of taxpayers’ money on the lunacy of giving a contract to a ferry company with no ships as part of preparing for a no-deal Brexit.


Even that, though, pales beside the eye-watering amounts being sent abroad in foreign aid – currently £13.4bn a year. No less lunatic than spending on non-existent ferries, some of this is going to India and China, bigger economies than our own and potential rivals for international trade.

There needs to be an urgent rebalancing of priorities in Government thinking. It simply cannot be right to spend billions on what is essentially a public relations exercise in making Britain appear to be a bigger player on the world stage than it is while the vulnerable suffer here at home.

It’s high time the electorate woke up to the damage that has been inflicted on councils and demand that they get a fair deal, because the blame for a decline in public services that were once the envy of the world lies not with town halls – but at Westminster.



As per usual , The Yorkie Post doesn't mince it's words !
UK income inequality increasing as benefits cuts hit poorest.

Average income of the poorest fifth of the population shrunk by 1.6% last year, says ONS.



Income inequality across Britain increased over the course of 2018 as cuts to benefits damaged the finances of poorer households while the wealthiest in society got richer, official figures show.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average income of the poorest fifth of the population after inflation contracted by 1.6% in the last financial year ending in 2018, while the average income of the richest fifth rose by 4.7%.

The Whitehall statistics body singled out the falling average value of cash benefits for the poorest households as the main driver behind the decline in their income, while a rise in earnings from employment lifted the income of the richest.

It also said that median household disposable income growth had plateaued last year at £28,400, ending four years of steady increases for the strength of household finances.

The latest snapshot into the health of household finances across the country suggests that welfare cuts imposed by the government have exacerbated inequalities, at a time of mounting political and economic divisions.

Separate analysis has previously shown the Brexit vote damaged average household incomes, after the sharp drop in the pound immediately after the referendum result drove higher inflation, outstripping wage rises.

Theresa May has come under growing pressure to enact her promise to end austerity, after almost a decade of cuts to benefits and services. Household benefits for millions of families, including those in work, have been frozen over the last four years under a policy launched by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015.

The policy, in place until 2020, means household benefit payments do not rise in line with inflation. The Resolution Foundation thinktank estimates the average lower-income family with children will be £200 worse off this year as a consequence.

Despite the deterioration in household income last year, the ONS said the longer-term picture was more positive for poorer families. Since the 2008 financial crisis, it is the average income of the poorest fifth that has risen the most, up 11.6%, compared with the richest fifth, rising by 4.9% over the same period.

The highest 1% of earners in the country have, however, managed to protect their share of total household disposable income over the past seven years, with the richest 1% of the population controlling 7.1% of total household disposable income.

The ONS said income inequality had increased slightly last year when measured using the Gini coefficient – a sliding scale between 0 and 100 where higher values represent a greater degree of inequality – with the gauge ticking up from 31.4 to 32.5 last year in the UK.

Despite the small increase last year, income inequality remains slightly lower than the levels reached 11 years ago, although is substantially higher than during the 1970s and 1980s before income inequality rapidly accelerated in Britain and several other major economies.

Dominic Webber, the head of household income and expenditure analysis at the ONS, said: “While our report highlights a contraction in average income for the poorest fifth of the population, the longer-term trend has seen this group’s income rise the most. As such it may be too early to draw definite conclusions from this specific downtick.

“Those in the richest fifth have seen a greater change, as well as a sustained rise over a number of years, which has helped to drive an increase in inequality.”


A Treasury spokesperson said unemployment was at a historic low, it had raised the national living wage and was cutting taxes to help families.

“But we recognise the importance of providing more support to those who need it. That’s why we’re spending an additional £1.7bn a year on universal credit and by 2022 we will be spending £28bn more on welfare than we do now.”
The madness continues :
Council tax bills to rise by an average of 4.5 per cent.

" Local authorities have faced the most significant cuts to spending over the last 10 years, and despite the Government's announcement that austerity is ending, for local authorities this is clearly not the case. "



The average household in England faces a £75.60 rise in council tax from April, according to a survey of local authorities.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) study found a planned average increase of 4.5 per cent for Band D households in 2019-20.

The increase is lower than the 5.1 per cent or £80.92 rise last year, but is still the second highest council tax rise in the last decade, Cipfa said.

Of the authorities in England which responded, 301 of 312 said they would increase their council tax.

Households in Greater London are expected to see the highest percentage increase in their bills at 5.1 per cent. But in cash terms their total bill will be an average £1,476.39, while bills in the northeast will be £1,883.95.

“The extent of the rises across the country are a reflection of the incredible fiscal pressure faced by local authorities and police,” said Cipfa CEO Rob Whiteman. ”Without a bolder vision from government, the future of these services is increasingly being put at risk.

“Local authorities have faced the most significant cuts to spending over the last 10 years, and despite the government’s announcement that austerity is ending, for local authorities this is clearly not the case. Long term they remain in an unsustainable position. Ministers need to make radical decisions to secure the future of public services.

“Council tax is regressive, and increasingly divorced from the reality of property values. They will not be sufficient to meet rising demand for services such as adult, and increasingly, children’s social care.”

A Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £45.1bn this year – increasing to £46.4bn next year – to meet the needs of their residents. Councils, not central government, are responsible for managing their own resources. Taxpayers can veto excessive increases via a local referendum.”
Local councils face £1bn social care black hole as tax revenues fall short.

Funding gap means spending on parks, buses and libraries will have to be cut, town hall leaders say.



Elderly and disabled people will have vital services cut as councils struggle to cope with a £1bn social care funding gap, town hall leaders have warned.

Authorities said they faced the huge shortfall even after council tax rises are taken into account.

Councils will be allowed to raise taxes by 2.99 per cent in 2019/20, and some will be able to add a further 2 per cent specifically for social care.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) said the money would "do little" to improve services.

It warned that limits on the amount that councils can raise taxes by in a three-year period mean 44 per cent of authorities that would otherwise have been eligible will not be able to introduce the 2 per cent social care levy.

Even if every council raises tax by the maximum amount allowed, there will still be a £1bn funding gap – a figure that is set to rise to £3.6bn by 2025, the LGA said.

Councils said they would be forced to divert money from other areas, including bus services, parks, libraries and leisure centres, to fund adult social care.

Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said services were "at breaking point".

He said: “Extra council tax income for adult social care has been helpful in recent years. For many that option has run out this year and the extra money the rest will raise will do little to prevent those who rely on services seeing the quality and quantity reduce.

“Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system. It has raised different amounts of money in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, and risked adding an extra financial burden on households."

Councils in England now receive a combined total of almost 5,000 requests for adult social care a day, taking up nearly 40 per cent of their budgets.

Mr Watts said: “Investing in social care is the best way to keep people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community. This is not only good for our loved ones but is proven to alleviate pressure on the NHS.

“Plugging the immediate funding gap facing adult social care and finding a genuine long-term funding solution must therefore be an urgent priority for the government.”

It comes as a report by the charity Independent Age found that the quality of care homes has dropped in more than a third of areas in the last year.

Care Quality Commission inspection data from January 2018 and January 2019 reveals that care homes have worsened in 37 per cent of local authority areas, it said
.
Councils spend millions on agency social workers amid recruiting crisis

Exclusive : Local authorities spent at least £335m in 2017/18 on agency staff, FoI requests reveal.


Local authorities are having to spend millions of pounds on social work agencies as they struggle to recruit permanent staff, with some authorities employing nearly half of their children’s social workers through private companies, a Guardian investigation has found.

Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that many English councils are routinely spending tens of millions of pounds – a total of at least £335m in 2017/18 – hiring agency social workers.


Experts said the difficulty experienced by councils in attracting permanent staff meant vulnerable children and families were often seeing multiple social workers in a single year, making it harder for them to engage with services.

They said the large-scale use of agency social workers was a poor use of dwindling local authority funds, as locums received a higher hourly rate than permanent staff, on top of the fee paid to the company they were employed through.


As of September last year, 26 local authorities got more than 30% of their children’s social work staff from agencies. Forty-eight per cent of Swindon council’s children’s social workers were employed through an agency, as were 47% of Croydon’s.

Tameside and Lambeth recruited 43% and 39% through agencies respectively. This compares with an average among English councils of 15%. Only 10 out of 152 local authorities in England hired one or no children’s social workers from agencies in September last year.

Ray Jones, a former director of children’s services and an emeritus professor at Kingston University, said working conditions for social workers had deteriorated, with bigger caseloads, less support and inadequate pay, which made locum work more attractive.

“You’re paying more for a poorer service [with agency workers] because what you need in terms of children’s and adults social services is continuity – people who know the people they are working with, can build relationships with those families over time, and know their history,” he said.

The Guardian reported in January that nine in 10 local authorities spent more than what they had budgeted for on children’s services last year, as the number of children being taken into care hit at a 10-year high.

According to data from 129 out of 152 local authorities across the country, councils spent a total of £335m on agency social workers in 2017/18. This represented a slight fall from £360m in 2016/17, which in turn had risen from £342m in 2015/16.

The biggest spender in 2017/18 was Northamptonshire, which declared itself effectively bankrupt in February last year. It spent £12m, which represented a drop from £18.4m the previous year. A council spokesperson said reliance on agency staff was an issue faced by nearly all local authorities across the country, and that it had managed to reduce its use of agency workers by 23% since 2017.

Jones – whose book In Whose Interest?, on the privatisation of child protection and social work, was published in December – said that among the reasons for the rise in the use of agency workers were government cuts to local authorities, which had made social work a less attractive profession.

“More people are getting into difficulty because of increasing poverty, so there’s more pressure on services,” he said. “At the same time there have been funding cuts that limit what you can do to help.”
English councils " Face £50 BILLION funding black hole. "



English councils face a funding "black hole" of more than £50bn over the next six years unless extra cash is made available, a lobby group has said.

The County Councils Network said rising costs and demand for services, like social care, could mean councils resort to providing the "bare minimum".

It said yearly council tax rises and making services more efficient will "not be enough" to plug the gap.

The government said councils will have access to £46.4bn this year.

The County Councils Network, which represents large, often rural authorities, commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to analyse the future financial stability of councils in England.

In its research, to be published on Wednesday, it found that even if council tax is increased as much as possible, and all money held in reserves is used, there will still be a funding shortfall.

Paul Carter, County Councils Network chairman, said: "If government does not provide additional funding for councils over the medium term, many local authorities will resort to providing the bare minimum, with many vital services all but disappearing."

He said even "draconian cuts won't be enough for many well-run councils to balance the books" and council finances will be left in "disarray with many of us struggling to deliver even the basic level of local services".

The organisation has called for clarity from the government about spending plans.


Councils receive their money from a mix of central government grants and money raised locally through taxes and charges.

Since 2010, council spending power, including funding from central government and local taxes, has fallen by almost 30%.

" Funding debate needed "

Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins said he has had to cut spending while facing growing demand and costs for care services.

"We really need a proper adult, cross-party debate on the future funding of adult social care," he said.

"We need to know how we are going to fund this in the future.

"It can't fall just on the council tax and the business-rate payer."

A government spokesperson said this year's local government finance settlement included extra funding for local services.

"Local authorities will have access to £46.4bn this year, a real-terms increase that will strengthen services, support local communities and help councils meet the needs of their residents."

The government will be looking at funding for services as part of a spending review, the spokesperson added.
Tory council chief warns of social care funding shortfall.

Traumatic effect of cuts on vulnerable people set to worsen, says Somerset leader.


England faces a growing social care funding crisis which, if not fixed, will potentially leave hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their families without the care they need, a senior Conservative council leader has warned.

Cllr David Fothergill, the leader of Somerset county council – which last year made big cuts to Sure Start centres and libraries to avoid bankruptcy – was speaking ahead of the transmission of a fly-on-the-wall Panorama documentary that shows the traumatic effects of cuts on families reliant on the county’s adult social care services.

Fothergill said: “There is a national crisis and we need to sort it because it is only going to get worse.”

He told the Guardian that failure to find funding to cover soaring demand for social care would lead to increasingly difficult decisions about who would be eligible for state help. “What will happen is that there will be less funding for complex cases, while those with lower needs will go unfunded.”

His comments came as a report predicted that English councils risk insolvency if government does not move rapidly to fill a £50bn funding black hole opening up in local authority budgets, in large part because of the spiralling cost of paying for services for vulnerable older adults and children.

The report published by the Conservative-dominated County Councils Network (CCN) ahead of the promised government public spending review says that without extra funding, rising demand for social care will see council finances “plunged into disarray” and services cut to legal minimum levels.

The CCN chair, Paul Carter, the Conservative leader of Kent county council, said without extra funding many vital council services would disappear. “Even these draconian cuts won’t be enough for many well-run councils to balance the books and it will leave our finances in disarray with many of us struggling to deliver even the basic level of local services.”

Local authorities are concerned that they will soon be unable to meet their legal duty to fund demand for care of older and disabled adults and vulnerable children. Those which provide social care find it typically already consumes 70% of their budgets, tightly squeezing other services such as parks, planning, Sure Start and libraries.

The two-part Crisis in Care documentary, which airs on BBC One next week, depicts the struggles of a several Somerset families to get the care they need for relatives with conditions ranging from dementia to chronic arthritis. It also charts the emotional and physical impact on carers left with diminishing support, and the effects on staff forced to make painful care-rationing decisions.

Fothergill said it felt like a political risk at first to give the BBC intimate access to staff and clients over the course of a year. “I was nervous. But I felt that this was a story – a national story not just a Somerset story – that needed to be told.”

At a preview screening on Monday night, Sir Andrew Dilnot, the economist and author of a government-commissioned review into care funding nearly a decade ago, said it had moved him to tears. The ongoing failure of politicians of all parties to find a way of addressing the care crisis was, he added, morally “not right”.

The government promised a green paper on social care funding 18 months ago but publication has been delayed at least six times as Brexit absorbs ministerial energy and attention.

Age UK estimates tightening eligibility for council-funded social care have led to 627,000 people – nearly 900 a day – being refused social care since March 2017. More than a million older people had developed an unmet care need in that time, such as needing help with washing or dressing.

A government spokesperson said: “Local authorities will have access to £46.4bn this year, a real-terms increase that will strengthen services, support local communities and help councils meet the needs of their residents. The government will be looking at funding for services as part of the spending review.”
English councils warned about " Running out " of reserve cash.

Some councils in England have been warned they risk running out of cash reserves if recent spending continues.


Analysis by the BBC has identified 11 authorities the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) said would have " Fully exhausted " reserves within four years unless they topped them up.

The Local Government Association said councils faced "" Systemic underfunding ".

The government said councils were responsible for managing their funds.

Councils have faced cuts to their government funding and rising demand for services such as social care, while MPs have warned children's services are at "breaking point".

Cash reserves - money held back for specific projects or emergencies, such as flooding - are seen as a measure of financial security.

The BBC analysis of government data follows work by Cipfa, which published a "resilience" index of councils, but stopped short of naming those it warned were depleting reserves the fastest.

The warning was based on the latest data available, comparing reserves as of March 2018 with March 2015.

The analysis reveals which 11 of the 152 major English councils have used so much of their reserves since 2015 that Cipfa said they would run out within four years if spending patterns continued.


Image

What do the councils say ?

Councils said they face shortfalls in funding due to cuts in government grants. However, those identified as having used a lot of their reserves insisted they were not running out of cash.

Northamptonshire County Council overspent by millions of pounds, leading to plans for it to merge with the smaller district councils. It said there had been "an improvement and stabilisation" during 2018-19 with £20m going back into reserves.

Somerset County Council faced a budget gap of £28m over three years and announced cuts to various services. It intends to put more money into reserves, reaching £19m by March 2020. It said the reserves it used included funding provided by the government to cope with severe flooding.

Rotherham Council said its reserves had not fallen as much as the government data showed, due to changes in accounting. A spokeswoman said: "Although the picture is better than is portrayed here, we have still had to use our reserves due to increased demand on social care services over the last few years, as the funding from central government is not enough to manage these costs."

Thurrock Council said it was in "one of the strongest financial positions of any unitary authority" in England and had frozen council tax. It said its reserves had stayed stable and it had used "earmarked" reserves as planned. "Earmarked reserves do not represent the council's financial strength in any way and to use them to suggest otherwise is misleading and incorrect," said deputy leader Councillor Shane Hebb.

Croydon Council said the figures it gave to the government were inaccurate and it had not run down its reserves. It added: "We expect our finances to continue to remain stable and solvent."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said auditors had "no concerns to raise" over its accounts and it was budgeting to increase reserves.

Sutton Council said its figures were from an earlier "estimate" and it had £33m in reserve in 2018, not the £30.8m in the government data. It added: "Reserves are actively managed according to our consideration of risk and programme of work."

Knowsley Council said it had funded a £16.6m pension deficit from reserves, but had budgeted to "replenish" them over the next two years.

Greenwich Council said it had a £125m funding shortfall but stressed most of the reserves used were for planned regeneration projects, with figures also showing a change in accounting for schools' funds. The council said asking people to pay more council tax "has not been easy."

Medway Council said it had used reserves to cover an "unexpected" number of business rates appeals as well as a planned "community hub programme".

Why can't councils just use the money ?

Heather Jameson, editor of the Municipal Journal, said councils had done an "extraordinary job" in keeping their books balanced by cutting staff, remodelling services and starting commercial ventures, but it was "no longer enough".

"Despite past political pressure to run down reserves to pay for services, any council with a sound financial plan is likely to hold money in reserve," she said.

"While health services can overspend or 'go bust' councils are legally required to balance their books and failing to keep some cash for emergencies is a risk that most are not willing to take.

"However, the pressure on budgets is making it increasingly difficult to hold cash in reserves."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said despite increases in council tax, local authorities had made substantial cuts to protect adult social care and children's services.

Economist Neil Amin Smith said: "Either councils will have to stop providing some of the services that they currently provide, central government grant funding will have to be re-introduced, or councils will have to be given access to additional sources of revenue."


Image


A government spokesman said this year's local government finance settlement included extra funding for local services.

He said: "Councils are democratically elected bodies responsible for making their own financial decisions and managing their resources.

"All local authorities are required to hold sufficient unallocated reserves to meet unexpected financial risks."

He said local government had access to £46.4bn in 2019-20.
Yep ... some cuts can be near fatal :

Bolton Council care cuts disabled woman " Nearly died ".

A disabled woman whose care package was cut by more than half has told how she almost died after it was reduced.



Image

Kim Jaye, who has difficulty carrying out basic tasks, ended up in intensive care after she split six stitches when she was left without a carer.

Bolton Council was criticised in a report for its "flawed assessment" of Ms Jaye's case which cut her care from 67 hours-a-week to 25.

The council apologised and said it was reviewing its assessment methods.

Ms Jaye, who has several disabilities and is registered blind, said she was "absolutely devastated" when her package was cut.

"It meant I couldn't do basic things for myself, I couldn't cook, I couldn't clean and I was dropping my medication," she said.


"I get a burning sensation in my hands, as if your hands have been dipped in hot oil," Ms Jaye added.

Ms Jaye said she had 75 accidents in a year.

She added: "I almost died - at one stage doctors even had to perform a tracheotomy on me."

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, published on Thursday, found the care hours reduction was based on an assessment that was "highly inaccurate".

The ombudsman found the council was at fault for an assessment that did not consider "the woman's fluctuating needs or the cumulative impact of her health conditions, despite clear evidence provided", and included basic errors about her religion and preferred language.

The council reinstated the care package and said in a statement: "We have read the findings of the report closely and will take this as an opportunity to learn and improve our services."



Given condition ... CHC / NHS Continuing Healthcare ?

Did NOBODY consider that ?

Even the Ombudsman in their recommendations ???
I've just read the full Ombudsman report on this. The news report was very short. The Ombudsman did recommend a joint assessment with Health for CHC.

He also told the Council to review every other assessment where they have cut hours or funding in the past 12 months where someone has complained about the cut.

There several other expensive and damming recommendations too.

If you live in Bolton area and have had care package cut, worth complaining as I bet there some red faces and sacking due
65 posts