Council could opt to bring care precept rise forward

Lord Smith
Lord Smith

Wiganers could be hit with a council tax hike of up to four per cent if town hall chiefs accept a government bid to rescue ailing social care services.

Town halls were permitted to impose a two per cent social care precept last year but the move was criticised for being inadequate.

The Government is expected to announce new measures today (Thursday) amid increasing calls the sector is in a funding crisis.

According to reports, councils will be able to bring tax rate rises forward, as long as they equal six per cent over three years.

Cash-strapped Wigan Council, along with counterparts across the country, could therefore add a three per cent precept to bills in 2017/18 and 2018/19 but not in 2019/20.

Or, if the reports are correct, have a four per cent rise followed by two the year after or continue to spread the six per cent over the three years.

Council leader Lord Smith told the Evening Post last week his ruling Labour Party colleagues would look to impose a precept next year but were waiting for definitive details from Westminster.

A town hall spokesman said no further comment would be issued until the detailed plans are revealed today.

Lord Smith said last week: “We don’t know what will happen, we think there may be another precept this year and if so it we will put that up.

“Last time the two per cent didn’t actually pay the increase in the national wage of the care givers. We’ll take it but it’s not enough due to the pressures of our aging population.”

The Local Government Association has said the speculated changes were “insufficient”.

And the debate on social care triggered lively responses in yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went on the attack telling Theresa May to “get a grip”.

He said Mrs May should accept that there is “a crisis in social care” and scrap plans to cut corporation tax from 20 to 17 per cent in order to plug the funding gap. Adding: “This social care crisis forces people to give up work to care for loved ones. It makes people stay in hospital longer than they should and leads people into a horrible, isolated life when they should be cared for by all of us through a properly funded social care system. Get a grip and fund it properly, please.”

The Prime Minister said she recognised that there were “immediate pressures on social care” which will be addressed in today’s settlement announcement.

She added: “We also recognise that this is not just about money. It is about delivery. There is a difference in delivery across the country. We need to make sure that reform is taking place so we see best practice in terms of integration of health and social care across the country.

“But we also need to ensure that we have a longer-term solution to give people the reassurance for the future that there is a sustainable system that will ensure that they are receiving the social care that they need in old age. That is what the Government is working on.”

Borough MP Andy Burnham tweeted: “Actually, Prime Minister, Labour didn’t inflict brutal cuts on social care. By contrast, you have left half a million people without help.”