Council tax hikes loom across England to fund social care, survey finds

8 February 2018, 11:56

Council tax and charges look set to be hiked by nearly all local authorities in England as they scramble to raise funds for services such as social care.

According to research commissioned by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), some 95% plan to raise council tax while 93% will increase service costs.

The measures are said to be needed to ease the burden on public services.

The biggest fears are for children's services (nearly 32% of councils), followed by adult social care (nearly 28%) and housing and homelessness (19%).

Councils can raise tax by up to 3% this year, in line with inflation, before triggering a local referendum.

The LGIU said its results proved the system was "unsustainable".

"Councils are on the edge," the think-tank's chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said. "They are for the most part holding services together (though a significant minority are not).

"But they can only do this this by raising council tax, increasing charging and draining their reserves.

"The system is unsustainable and needs far more fundamental reform than is presently on offer.

"It's simply not acceptable that we don't know how local government will work post-2020.

"Many will have to make tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back or stopped altogether to plug funding gaps."

Some 113 councils - about a third of all local authorities in England - responded to the survey.

Sky Data ran its own poll on the prospect of an increase to council tax bills, which revealed that most people would be happy to pay more if it meant greater funding for social care.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they would prefer higher council tax and higher social care funding, with 14% in favour of both being lower and 41% in favour of them staying the same.

Older people were more willing to pay more for social care, with 55% of those aged 55 and over in favour, compared to 46% of those aged between 35 and 54 and just 28% of those aged between 18 and 34.

A spokesperson for the for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "Our finance settlement strikes a balance between relieving growing pressure on local government whilst ensuring that hard-pressed taxpayers do not face excessive bills.

"We have listened to representations made from councils and delivered on these with extra funding."

It comes after Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was forced to buy off potential Tory rebels threatening a mutiny over town hall funding.

He and Chancellor Philip Hammond promised another £150m to fund local social care services - with an extra £16m for rural areas.