Berkshire Social Services ‘Needs Extra £2.4m’

Social and aged care services in Berkshire could suffer if Whitehall does not increase council funding, the Local Government Association has warned. The association’s Autumn Statement said council tax payers would have to spend more to pay for services if the government funding shortfall is not met. Wokingham District Council is one of the worst-off in the UK, funding 80% of its programmes from council tax. The authority already has plans to cut social care and said it needs an extra £2.4 million a year to meet current commitments.

But Reading borough sits below the 50% national average, with 46% of its funding coming from council tax. The LGA, which wants the government to prioritise local authority funding in its 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, said fewer people will receive care if councils are forced to rely on council tax.

The report said government has increased its funding by 40% in the last 10 years, but that had not kept pace with a 50% rise in council spending.

Demands on councils have risen and local authorities are spending an average of £1.8 million a year on reporting their performance in more than 560 public service agreements. The report called this: “A waste of valuable resources in reporting and monitoring.”

Councils are now dealing with an extra 390,000 over-65s and are providing services to more people with learning disabilities. The number of children in care, and the cost, is also increasing.

The report said even providing healthy school dinners to meet new government requirements is increasing the spending burden on councils, as is the cost of enforcing workplace anti-smoking and licensing laws.

The department of communities and local government said authorities had been receiving generous, above-inflation funding from the government over the last decade. Local government minister Phil Woolas said: “If local government wants to be a partner in governance and the delivery of services with national government, they have to talk the language of balanced books and not that of a pressure group. These claims tell you more about the LGA’s perennial tactics in bidding for more money, than they do about what is actually happening on the ground.”