Council to press for fairer funding as further grant cuts hit budgets

Plymouth City Council is to continue pressing the Government for a better deal for the city as it grapples with the impact of more than a decade of Government austerity and rising demand for social care.

A report to the Cabinet says the latest local government funding settlement from the Government had confirmed the Council would continue to be impacted by austerity measures and reduced grant funding, leaving insufficient resources to deal with increased demand across all services.

Its revenue support grant is being further reduced by £6.8 million, its public health grant by £405,000 and its housing benefit grant by just under £100,000, while it faces increased costs for next year of £17.4 million.

As its sets its budget for 2019/20, the Council is having to deal with £12.6 million of additional costs of providing adult and children’s social care as more people need support and the cost of contracts for looking after people increase.

Despite these extra costs, which include the need to implement changes to the national living wage, the additional grant Plymouth is receiving from the Government to support social care is only £6.3 million – leaving a massive £6.3 million gap in social care funding.

The budget pressures in social care continue to increase as demand rises. For example, over the last year the Council has provided residential or nursing care to 1,313 people, an increase of 33 on the previous year, while it provided long term adult social care packages to 3,515 people living in the community, an increase of 44 on the previous year.

Increasing costs within Children’s Services is also a growing problem, shared with many other councils around the country, due to rising demand, complexity of care and the rising costs of suitable placements.

In Plymouth there are currently 414 children in care, 35 children in a residential placement, 137 children with independent fostering agencies, 159 children with in-house foster placements and 19 in Supported Living placements.

Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet member for Finance, said: “The already difficult task of continuing to deliver critical services in the face of year after year of cuts is being made even more difficult by the uncertainty about future funding as our four year settlement comes to an end. A Government consultation on the future of local government funding and the results will not be known for a while. This makes it very difficult to plan.

“We will be pressing our case and fighting any attempt by the Government to remove the weighting given to areas with higher deprivation when allocating resources as could have a severe impact on cities such as Plymouth.”

The Council is still working to narrow a £4.8 million shortfall in next year’s budget before the full council meeting on 25 February when Council Tax levels will be agreed.

The Council’s medium term financial strategy assumes a 2 per cent Council Tax increase to generate around £2.2 million towards meeting the extra financial pressures in delivering local services, though it is able to raise tax by 2.99% without a local referendum.

Councillor Lowry said: “Behind all these budget figures there are important local services that residents rely on. The impact of ongoing reductions to the financial resources provided to local government cannot be underestimated.

“We are doing our absolute best to protect services in the face of year after year of Government cuts. We have been creative in finding ways of reducing spending and raising income and are making strong progress in driving economic growth that supports jobs for Plymouth and raises income for the city’s services. However, with the Government continuing to cut our funding and ignoring the growing crisis in social care nationally, our ability to deliver some services will be affected.”