As you probably know, the Government published its Spring Budget yesterday, with a welcome extra £2bn for social care over the next three years, leading the headlines. From what we can tell so far, this is genuinely new money and comes after months of lobbying by me and colleagues across the LGA. With your help, we made the case clearly, repeatedly highlighting the £2.6bn gap facing adult social care. Although the announcement today is welcome, it is only a step towards adequately funding the system, which continues to face increasing pressures of more people with greater needs of care.
The money for social care doesn't come without strings and there is an expectation that we will work with the NHS to ensure smooth discharges from hospital, amongst other caveats. We are arguing for the money to be flexibly allowed within the envelope of adult care. There is also the ongoing pressure of the rising living wage, which is great, but has never been adequately funded.
Other key areas of focus include education, where investment is being made in school repairs – £216m which falls woefully short of the £6.7bn required in total; additional school transport for more disadvantaged children to selective schools; and investment in more free schools – up to 500 of them. Councils continue to have their hands tied behind their backs on this one, retaining a duty to ensure children have a school place, while having little influence. That is why the LGA is renewing its call for schools to be given powers to decide where schools are built.
Business rate relief featured with a yearlong relief available for some pubs (funded by central government) while some businesses will see sharp rises. The business rate consultation is ongoing in the hope of finding a sensible way to tax online businesses, make the system more transparent and appeals less likely. Housing and infrastructure are also still subject to consultation on the White Paper. While there was nothing on green issues.
Despite some positive announcements, the overriding message was one of things remaining tight; unless you're a big business who will pay less in corporation tax: £6bn less. Meanwhile self-employed people will pay more tax through increased National Insurance.
We have had a very long period of austerity, but the promised-land shows little sign of its existence.
How long will this government continue to promote austerity for some while failing to reduce the deficit or our debt levels and favouring those who arguably need it the least?