The coalition government restricted council tax rises by insisting on a referendum for rises over 2% and gave councils significant financial incentives not to raise council tax at all. The rules were relaxed for 2016/17 so that councils could raise council tax by up to 2% plus an additional 2% for social care. Cheshire East Council increased its council tax by 3.75% in 2016/17 including 2% for social care. The Cheshire East Health & Wellbeing Board met on 27 September to discuss the impact of this social care precept valued at £3.5m.
The extra income of £3.5m a year is welcome and has enabled the council to ensure that there is no charge to carers, free telecare equipment for all residents over 85 who live alone and investment in new information systems. However, the increasing costs of adult care provision has necessitated additional investment of over £21m between April 2015 and April 2017, so the additional funding from the council tax increase is insufficient on its own to cover the increasing costs.
The severity of the financial outlook for health and social care is illustrated by the predicted £132m deficit of Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), with similar projections for other local CCGs.
It was suggested that the Council & local NHS need to seriously think about adopting a single health and social care budget and approach
The Health & Wellbeing Board resolved to note that the social care precept is welcomed but not sufficient to meet the rising complexities and demands of meeting care and support needs in Cheshire East.
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “The restricting of free telecare equipment to those over 85 and living alone will benefit more people in the wealthier areas of Cheshire East where life expectancies are longer. Charges should be set to protect those least able to pay, but the Tories rig the rules to benefit those in their own wards.”