Lancashire will receive a larger share than any other non-metropolitan county of the extra social care funding that the government has pledged for next year.
The county council area will be handed £33.4m, while Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen councils will get £5.9m and £4.9m respectively.
The extra money for 2020/21 is from a £1.4bn pot for adult and children’s services, £400m of which was introduced as a temporary boost last year and will be repeated again over the next twelve months.
County Hall could raise a further £48m if takes up the option of a hiking council tax by two percent and ringfencing it specifically for social care, as the government has permitted for the last three years.
But a House of Lords committee concluded in June that social care in England needed an immediate £8bn cash injection to return the system to pre-austerity levels of operation – describing it as a “national scandal” that a million vulnerable people were not receiving the support they need.
A government “green paper” review into the future of social care was originally promised back in 2017, but has not appeared after being repeatedly delayed. As well as the extra £1bn which has now been released, the Conservative manifesto ahead of the recent general election committed to seeking a cross-party consensus on the issue.
The overall local government funding package will see Lancashire County Council’s spending power – the cash available to it from Whitehall grants, council tax and business rates – increase by 7.3 percent compared to last year and 15.1 percent since 2015/16, taking it to £843m.
However, the authority has seen £600m cut from its budget since 2010 – and would be around £135m better off this year even if its budget had just kept pace with inflation over the last decade. The county council was approached for comment on the funding announcement.
Chorley and South Ribble councils are the only two in Lancashire seeing slight falls in their spending power next year of 0.4 percent each, having also lost 10.9 percent and 8.9 percent respectively since 2015.
Preston City Council’s cabinet member for resources, Martyn Rawlinson, said of his authority’s 6.5 percent spending power increase next year:
“The figures outlined in the provisional settlement come as no great surprise, but in an already challenging financial environment having only a one year settlement makes it harder for us to plan ahead.
“On top of this, the delay of the new business rates scheme until April 2021 creates uncertainty around what funding the council will receive from central government and how we fund vital public services.”
All councils will be permitted to raise council tax by two percent next year without the need for a local referendum - on top of the two percent allowed for those authorities with social care responsibilities.
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said that next year's settlement for local authorities would equate to their "biggest real-terms increase in spending power for a decade".
"This government is committed to unleashing the huge potential of this country and we are giving communities the funding that they need to thrive, support the most vulnerable in our society and also protect the vital services that we all rely on," Mr. Jenrick added.