In Brief

Council tax could rise £100 a year to deal with care crisis

Government looks to increase social care precept, but campaigners warn of a 'postcode lottery' for services

Council tax bills could rise up to seven per cent next year to deal with a mounting crisis in social care provision, says The Times.

Warnings about the situation have been growing for months, with councils struggling to meet the cost of caring for an ageing population after having their government grants cut by more than 40 per cent since 2010.

The national living wage has added to the problem, increasing the staffing bill for care services across the country by hundreds of millions of pounds.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, says the system is a "house of cards" that could "topple over at any moment".

The Times reports that 250 care homes have closed since March, bringing a capacity crunch that is increasing pressure on local NHS services. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond, in his Autumn Statement last month, is said to have wanted to increase the social care "precept" - a top-up to council tax of up to two per cent introduced by his predecessor George Osborne.

Now an extension of the policy is expected to be announced in the coming days by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured above).

Izzi Seccombe, the chairwoman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said ministers were considering allowing the precepts to be increased.

She told The Guardian there was a funding black hole of £1.3bn this year and that by 2020, it would hit £2.6bn. Osborne's social care "precept" raised £380m last year.

One option which the Times says is under discussion, allowing councils to raise an unlimited sum to meet their needs, would see increases of an average of seven per cent, or around £100 a year.

"Worried about the consequences of increasing bills by such an amount, ministers are likely to opt for a lower figure," says the Times.

However, if they do not meet the full cost of the identified black hole, the issue of social care will remain unresolved. 

Critics are also taking issue with the fact that the burden for care costs is falling on local taxation, creating a "postcode lottery" for services whereby richer areas are better able to meet demand.

There have long been calls for social care to be integrated more closely with wider healthcare, which would see it funded out of the central government budget.

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