Council tax will fail to protect adult social care services this year

Council tax rises in 2019/20 will not bring in enough money to prevent the need for further cutbacks to the care that millions of older and disabled people rely on every day, the Local Government Association has revealed.

All councils are able to raise council tax by up to 2.99 per cent in 2019/20 to fund local services without the need for a referendum. Some social care authorities remain able to levy an extra social care precept of up to 2 per cent (up to 4.99 per cent in total with the general flexibility) this year. Income from this precept must be spent on adult social care services.

With town halls across the country setting their final budgets and council tax levels, extensive annual research by the LGA reveals:

  • 67 social care councils (44 per cent) are unable to levy any more social care precept in 2019/20.
  • 83 of England’s social care authorities are considering or have approved an adult social care precept in 2019/20 with 38 using the full 2 per cent precept available to them this year.
  • These adult social care precept rises will raise an extra £197 million in total to pay for adult social care services this year. The LGA is warning this is not even equivalent to the estimated £290 million cost to councils of paying for the increase in the Government’s National Living Wage this year.

The LGA has estimated that even if all councils used their council tax flexibilities to the maximum allowed, adult social care services still face a funding gap of at least £1 billion in 2019/20, just to maintain existing standards of care. This will rise to £3.6 billion by 2025.

The dignified care and support which older and disabled people deserve, such as help getting dressed, fed or getting out and about and generally being able to live the lives they want to lead, therefore remains at risk. Vital social care services will be unable to continue to help ease the pressure on the NHS while the threat of a care home crisis remains very real.

Councils will have to divert funding from other cherished local services – such as bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres – this year to try and protect adult social care services.

The LGA is calling for the Government to use its Spending Review to tackle the immediate adult social care funding gap and publish a comprehensive Green Paper on social care to find a truly long-term, sustainable funding solution to this adult social care crisis.

Cllr Howard Sykes, LGA Liberal Democrat Leader at the LGA, said:

“Adult social care provides vital support to millions of people every day but is at breaking point.

“Raising council tax has never been the long term 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.

Cllr Richard Kemp, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care Spokesperson at the Local Government Association, added:

“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.

“Liberal Democrats want to raise £6 billion additional revenue which would be ringfenced to be spent only on social care and health services, funded by a 1p rise on the basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax.”


  1. Social care council tax precept increases have not been able to exceed 6 per cent over the 3 year period from 2017/18 to 2019/20. Councils were able to front-load increases of up to 3 per cent in both 2017/18 and 2018/19. That means that if a council has already used up the flexibility in 2017/18 and 2018/19 it cannot increase its social care precept further in 2019/20. Those who continue to have precept flexibility remaining can only raise a maximum of 2 per cent in this final year.
  2. Councils have reduced the average number of delayed transfers of care days attributed to social care since July 2017 by 43 per cent, freeing up more hospital beds for those that need them.
  3. Latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day. Spend on adult social care now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of total council budgets.
  4. Councils will receive £240 million extra funding for adult social care and £410 million, for both adults and children’s social care, in 2019/20. While this funding is helpful, the LGA is clear that short-term measures and one-off funding do not address the full extent of all immediate pressures on the adult social care system.
  5. Last July, the LGA launched its own adult social care green paper to kick-start a desperately-needed national debate on how to pay for adult social care and rescue the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse. The consultation received more than 500 responses. Read the LGA’s response to the consultation.
  6. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils. Find out more.


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