Massive pressures on social care has ‘squeezed out spending’ on other services

“Massive pressures” on social care has “squeezed out spending for all other important services”, a senior Labour MP has warned.

Chair of the housing, communities and local government committee Clive Betts raised concerns over the “level of cuts” faced by councils across the country.

The MP for Sheffield South East spoke of the “democratic accountability” challenge being faced when families were seeing their council tax rise while services were “cut” to finance social care.

Speaking during an Opposition day debate in the Commons on Local Government Finance, he said: “No other part of the public sector has had this level of cuts and we know as well that the biggest cuts have fallen to the poorest areas in the north of the country.”

Mr Betts said it would be “interesting to see how the Government responds now” to the pressures on services in areas like South Yorkshire and the North East following December’s general election, adding: “Maybe they have a bigger interest in defending those areas in the future.”

There were he said “massive pressures” on social care including children’s services and services for the elderly.

He added: “We also know that in trying to prioritise spending on social services, council spending on social services has actually risen from 2000 to 2020 from 45% of their total spending to 60%.

“That has squeezed out spending for all other important services.

“So if you look at spending on things like road safety, on libraries, on leisure, on buses, on housing, on environmental services.

“Things that are really important to the vast majority of our constituents, they’ve all been cut by 50% or more.”

Mr Betts warned there was a “challenge to the whole of our democratic accountability at local level, where people see their council tax rising…every year, yet they see that the services that most families receive, who don’t get social care, those other services are being cut as they pay more for them. I think it’s a real fundamental challenge that has to be addressed”.

Mr Betts spoke of the need for a fair funding review for councils that was “genuinely fair”, adding: “You can’t have fair funding for local government unless the totality of the funding is sufficient for all councils.”

He backed cross-party discussions to address social care funding, plus reform of council tax bands.

He said: “That is the challenge, how you devolve powers but also the ability to raise money in a country where the inequality is so great that raising money at local level means so much difference in the amount of money that can be raised from any individual tax.”

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