Rising cost of social care keeps pressure on council’s budget

Continued pressure on the council’s budget as a result of further reductions in government funding, increased demand for services particularly for vulnerable people, rising prices and new burdens from government legislation means that despite proposing savings of over £8m next year, council tax is set to rise in Sutton for 2018/19.   

In the year ahead, costs including adult social care and children’s safeguarding are anticipated to rise by £8.1m. Inflation will further increase costs by £3.6m and the council will face a further £4m (8%) cut in government funding.

While savings of £8.1m have been identified, Sutton Council is proposing to use the government’s additional council tax precept for adult social care of 2% to contribute to the extra costs of adult care for the elderly because central government is not funding this nationally. A further 1.99% rise will also be recommended to Full Council for 2018/19 to cover the remaining inflationary costs and budget pressures.

For the average band D property this would mean an increase of £25.17 (2%) a year for the adult social care precept to care for the elderly, and £25.04 a year (1.99%) for general purposes. This will result in a Band D council tax of £1,308.52, an increase of £50.21 compared to 2017/18, equivalent to just over 97p a week.

The Greater London Authority, overseen by the Mayor of London, has proposed to increase its precept from £280.02 in 2017/18 to £294.22, a 5% increase, equivalent to £14.20 or 27p a week. The Mayor states that this increase will provide additional resources to support the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade. The draft budget is due to be considered by the Greater London Authority on 22 February.

The proposed GLA precept and Sutton’s proposed requirements mean that the total Band D council tax for 2018/19 would be £1,602.74. This compares with £1,538.33 in 2017/18, an increase of £64.41 (4.2%) or £1.24 a week for a Band D property.

Cllr Simon Wales, Lead Member for Resources at Sutton Council, said:

“Like councils across the country, and as in previous years, we have had to make some very tough decisions. We have reviewed all our services to make sure we work as efficiently as possible, to make as many savings as we can. We have developed new and innovative ways of working to maintain the services residents need.

“But a number of major, central government-led policy challenges continue to put pressure on all local councils. For example, the proposals contained in the Homelessness Reduction Act introduce new duties on local authorities, yet the funding central government is making available will not meet the cost of implementing them.

“We will continue to face challenges in the coming year as a result of demographic changes and pressures on housing supply and demand, changes in schools funding arrangements and demand for high needs SEN placements, and likely new obligations arising from the Grenfell Tower review.”

Since 2010, Sutton Council has been reviewing all areas of its work in order to make savings. This has included commissioning services with other boroughs, reducing the number of senior managers and staff, and saving millions in care for the elderly costs by supporting residents to stay in their homes longer through measures including greater day-to-day support and putting people in control of their own budgets.

The council has had to deal with budget pressures of around £70m on its annual budget since 2010 to respond to a 40% cut in central government funding over the same time. Its annual budget proposed for 2018/19 is £141.9m. Sutton Council’s budget is subject to an approved recommendation at Strategy and Resources committee and vote at Full Council.