Gordon Brown has ‘no idea’ how to pay for social care say Tories

Labour has ‘no idea’ how to pay for Gordon Brown’s flagship policy of providing free home care for elderly people, the Conservatives have said.

As the Westminster war of words continued over social care, the Tories were boosted by a warning from the Local Government Association, which claimed the Government was unrealistic to expect councils to pay for the scheme from “efficiency savings”.

The main parties will all go into the forthcoming general election with a pledge to take action over the looming crisis of how to care for the millions more elderly people who will need help to look after themselves in coming decades as a result of the ageing population.

Last week, secret talks aimed at arriving at a consensus over plans for a national care service, on the lines of the National Health Service, collapsed after the Conservatives accused Labour of planning a £20,000 “death tax” to pay for a comprehensive scheme.

The Tories have also accused the Government of sounding out the public’s response to a proposed 10 per cent inheritance levy to fund the proposals, leading to a furious row between the parties.

Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, will this week attempt to freeze the Conservatives out of the debate by holding a conference with the major charities and Liberal Democrats to discuss funding methods.

The Government is already committed to providing the 400,000 most vulnerable people with home care, at a cost of £670 million, of which £250 million would be provided by councils.

Extending this to cover residential stays through a national care service would provide comprehensive help for all elderly people who could not look after themselves, but would require significant amounts of additional funding.

The Conservatives favour a voluntary insurance scheme, while Labour is said to be considering a compulsory levy.

Further doubts were raised however about the cost of the initial phase of the scheme after the LGA warned that councils would struggle to find the efficiencies which the Government had claimed would pay for the service.

The Association called on ministers to delay implementation of the Personal Care at Home programme, which is due to begin later this year, so that authorities can properly budget for it.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: “Gordon Brown talks about free personal care for the elderly but he won’t admit the true cost of his policy. The truth is he has no idea how it is to be paid for.”

The LGA said that they “completely reject” ministers’ “vague” suggestions that the £250 million could be funded from efficiencies.