In CIPFA’s annual CFO confidence survey, 86% of chiefs polled identified adult social care as one of the three service areas under most pressure. Virtually the same percentage also named children’s social care (85%) as under the same pressure, while housing was the third biggest area (named by 41%).
Sean Nolan, CIPFA’s director of local government, said adult and children’s social care services were still facing the greatest budgetary pressures despite the introduction of the precept for 2016-17.
Powers to set a higher social care precept might come as a welcome relief to many councils, but there is concern that the benefits of the precept fall inconsistently, he added.
“[The] areas least able to raise revenue through council tax are often the areas that have the highest levels of need, and vice versa,” he highlighted. “The sticking plaster of the precept is, in any case, probably too little and too late to stop a major crisis in social care services.”
The survey also found that council finance chiefs are significantly less confident in the ability of their council to keep delivering services in the next financial year in comparison to this year. Over one third (38%) are ‘less confident’ in their organisation’s ability to deliver services in 2017-18, compared to 15% for 2016-17.
Nolan said the evidence CIPFA is receiving indicates that the continuing rise in spending on social care is putting a squeeze on other services.
“Councils can't defy gravity, keep taking so much money out of the system, and expect all their services to stand up,” he warned.
“CIPFA believes that the government must take a strategic and long-term approach to funding levels for health and social care together, rather than continuing to rely on short-term financial fixes.”
CIPFA sent questionnaires to 443 local authorities in England. This includes councils, police and fire authorities, transport authorities, waste authorities and national parks. Overall, 227 questionnaires were returned giving a survey response rate of 51.2%.