North Yorkshire County Council has warned of difficult decisions ahead as a result of the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
The review squeezes the council’s budget further and therefore presents considerable challenges.
- More than a quarter of the county’s adult population is over the age of 65 and every year the population of older people increases, and with it the demand for the care and support which the council provides.
- North Yorkshire had appealed to the Government ahead of the review to protect social care spending. While the county welcomes the Chancellor’s announcement that councils can choose to levy a social care precept of two per cent on council tax, this receipt will be dwarfed by the Government’s introduction of the national living wage.
The county council also welcomes increased funding for the Better Care Fund, which enables health and social care to work together more effectively. However, in the past the Better Care Fund has not materialised fully in the county council’s finances.
County Councillor Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader said:
While we are always reluctant to raise council tax. We will have to consider this step if we are to protect the most vulnerable in our society. However, even if we take this decision the levy will not give us the stretch to provide the services we need for a growing population, including care for the county’s increasing numbers of the elderly and frail.
In addition, North Yorkshire has one of the lowest council tax receipts out of 27 shire authorities and the 2pc precept will therefore raise less revenue relative to other councils with higher council tax.
Moreover the spending review has delivered two further and unexpected financial challenges to the county council’s already squeezed budget.
The apprenticeship levy on employers could cost the county council up to £1m. Moreover the Government plan outlined in today’s review to withdraw the education services grant, which covers local authority support for schools, represents a further reduction for the authority of up to £7m.
The county council is already half way through a savings-through-change programme to deliver £170m in cuts – one third of its budget – by 2020. In this year alone the county council will deliver savings of nearly £24m. Yesterday’s spending review means that in reality there will be no let-up in austerity for local authorities.
Cllr Les said:
It seems apparent from the Chancellor’s statement yesterday that we face a tough settlement in the coming years. By the end of the decade it looks like the council will no longer receive any funding direct from Government at all. But we will know more in coming months as the detail of these announcements becomes clearer.