” ‘Perfect storm’ over rural social care costs”

“Rural residents are unfairly penalised when it comes to Improved Better Care Funding, MPs have been told.

The Rural Services Network issued the warning in response to an inquiry by MPs who are examining the long-term future of adult social care.

The Long Term Funding of Adult Social Care Inquiry is being undertaken by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee of the House of Commons.

Submitting evidence to the inquiry, the Rural Services Network said the average predominantly urban resident will attract £37.74 per head in Improved Better Care Funding in 2019/20.

This is £8.20 more than rural residents who attract just £29.54 per head.

In 2017/18 Adult Social Care Core Funding is met by Council Tax to the tune of 76% in rural areas compared to just 53% in urban.

The Rural Services Network said there was no relationship between the numbers of people requiring social care and either Council Tax or Business Rates.

Growth in business rates or council tax income is in no way correlated to the service needs of care services, it pointed out.

“It is obvious that the rising costs of caring for the growing elderly population cannot be met by local taxation and must be funded per capita by central government,” said the network.

In rural areas, there are significantly more residents aged 65+, fewer businesses required to pay business rates and Council Tax levels are already much higher than in urban areas.

The network added: “Thus, there is created a ‘perfect storm’ of rising costs and limited income in the rural areas across England.”

Cost pressures in Social Care Services mean county and unitary councils serving rural areas are having to cut other budgets to the detriment of the well-being of rural residents and businesses.

Council tax per head is reflected in the Final Settlement for 2018/19 is £541.46 for Predominantly Rural Areas compared to £450.58 in Predominantly Urban Areas.

“The gap, at circa £91 per head, is inexcusable,” said the network.

There appears to be a conscious policy decision by the government that in rural areas Spending Power will be increasingly funded by council-taxpayers, it added.

In other words, the government appeared content for people in rural areas to pay more council tax from lower incomes and yet receive fewer services than their urban counterparts.

“This is manifestly unreasonable and totally inequitable,” said the network.

The role of preventative services in respect of adult social care was not formally recognised by government and district councils were not funded for public health.

With increasing pressures on district council budgets, there remained uncertainty as to how public health interventions delivered at a local level would be funded in the future.