Use unallocated business rates to ease the social care funding crisis



The government could ease the social care crisis by handing back to councils in the South East millions in surplus cash raised from business rates, according to new figures published today (Wednesday) by UNISON.

If local authorities in the South East were given back their share of business rates that have been collected by the government, this would mean an extra £360m to spend on social care, says UNISON.

UNISON’s calculations are based on the same funding formula for the government’s Better Care Fund, which allocates resources to the NHS and local authorities.

If the government were able hand back a proportion of business rates for South East local authorities to spend on social care, local council taxpayers would benefit too, says UNISON.

The extra business rates cash would remove the need for local authorities to raise council tax by two per cent* to spend on social care, saving South East residents £75m a year, says UNISON.

UNISON says many more people would be able to receive care in the region under its proposal. Kent County Council would get nearly £53m more to spend and taxpayers would save £11.4m (because money from business rates would avoid the need for council taxes to rise). Similarly Surrey County Council would get £32.7m, saving its taxpayers £12.1m a year.

With business rates to spend on social care, Milton Keynes Council would have another £7.3m to spend, saving its council taxpayers nearly £2m. The Isle of Wight would gain £6.1m, saving £1.4m for local taxpayers.

UNISON South East regional secretary Maggi Ferncombe said: “The social care system is in dire straits. There’s simply not enough money to fund the care that’s needed.

“The losers are the thousands of dedicated homecare workers, who work long hours, and whose already low wages are dragged below the legal minimum because of the non-payment of travel time.

“Those suffering the most are the elderly and the disabled, who rely on daily visits so they can stay in their own homes. Visits are often too short to administer the care needed, or care packages simply aren’t available. Then people have to stay in hospital far longer than is good for them, in beds that are desperately needed for other patients.

“Investing £360m in social care would be money extremely well spent. Not only would it mean better care for the elderly, it would ease the pressure on homecare staff, and free up beds in the NHS.”

Last week UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis wrote to Philip Hammond setting out where the autumn statement could make a real difference to public services. The Chancellor could:

  • End public service job cuts, where fewer staff are trying to do more with less resources.
  • Fully fund student nurse bursaries, giving the NHS a better chance of recruiting the additional health professionals it needs.
  • End the one per cent public sector pay cap, which has caused money worries for many public servants.