Councils will be forced to restrict social care, MPs warn

A panel of MPs has refuted health secretary Andrew Lansley’s claim that councils will be sufficiently funded to maintain current social services eligibility criteria levels.

A report by the House of Commons health committee said that on top of existing efficiency savings local authorities would need to make further cuts of up to 3.5% a year.

The committee said it was uncertain whether councils would maintain current spending levels on adult social services once the ring fence was removed from the personal social services grant.

Committee chair Stephen Dorrell MP said: “Taking account of these concerns, and the 14% real terms reduction in the total local authority expenditure anticipated by the spending review, the committee concluded that efficiency gains of between 2% and 3.5% per annum will be required from social service departments to avoid the requirement for service reductions.”

During a cross-examination by the committee, Mr Lansley said the spending review settlement, coupled with the two-year public sector pay freeze, would be enough to sustain social care eligibility levels.

But he also admitted there were “difficult decisions” to be made by local authorities about what their eligibility criteria should be.

In its evidence the Local Government Association said the overall required efficiency savings would be achievable, but that they would not be spread evenly across every council.