Hartepool leaders say Government needs to take responsibility for social care crisis

Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID
Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

Council leaders in Hartlepool say Government needs to step-up to solve a social care crisis.

They say instead of passing the financial burden onto councils, the Goverment should be taking responsibility to resolve the situation.

It is not right that the Government is shifting the burden of paying for social care from national taxation to local taxpayers

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher

Final preparations are being made to Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget for 2017/18, which includes an increase of 4.9% in Council Tax from April, the majority, 3%, is to fund the Government’s Adult Social Care Precept.

Over the next three years the council will see Government funding reduced by almost £10m. By 2019/20, the authority will have seen Government funding cut by over two-thirds - £45m - since 2010/11.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council, said action from the Government is vital to resolve the long-standing issue of spiralling costs of adult social care.

He said: “The Government really needs to take responsibility and sort out the national social care crisis. People are living much longer now and many have complex needs which we need to provide for.

“It is not right that the Government is shifting the burden of paying for social care from national taxation to local taxpayers at a time when we are already facing savage cuts in funding and pressures to deliver a wide range of local services.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said that an increase in Council Tax is the only option if the council is to achieve on its strong ambition to further improve the town and protect the most vulnerable members of society.

The large majority of councils in the North-East are expected to agree a Council Tax increase of around 4.9%. Meanwhile, Surrey County Council proposed a 15% increase to help cope with its rising social care costs, before reducing the rise to 4.99%.

Coun Stephen Thomas, chairman of the Hartlepool’s Adult Services Committee, said: “The Government’s 3% Adult Social Care Precept is just a sticking plaster – it will not resolve the underlying problem of years of under-funding.

“The Government should take responsibility and fund social care properly, rather than rely on increasing Council Tax which is simply just shifting the burden onto local people.

“We are doing our very best to provide the level of service which people in our community need, but people need to be aware of where the problem lies. This is a betrayal on behalf of the Government.”

The budget is expected to be agreed at a meeting of the full council on February 23.