Local authorities are the biggest funders of social care in England – so when the Government promised to stand behind councils through this crisis Labour supported them.
The Government asked councils to do everything they could to tackle coronavirus in their communities, and pledged to provide “whatever funding is needed for councils to get through this and come out the other side”.
But ministers are now going back on their word, leaving councils, including Bedford Borough, facing a £10bn funding gap.
By law, councils must balance their budgets – and so without further financial assistance they will be forced to cut £10bn from existing services, equivalent to over 20% of council’s annual spending. This would require catastrophic cuts to every local service, including adult and children’s social care, public health, and waste collection.
Councils in England have already seen government funding reduce by £16bn since 2010, leading many to rely on income streams that have now been severely affected by the economic shock caused by lockdown measures.
While councils would make their own local decisions over how to balance their budgets, a decade of spending reductions mean that a further 21% reduction would fall almost entirely on statutory frontline services.
Many of the key worker heroes who are getting us through the crisis, and who the public will clap their support for tonight, will face losing their jobs if the Government breaks their funding pledge to communities.
This would be a catastrophe for social care, disastrous for those who lose support as providers are forced out of business, and would once again fail the very people putting their lives on the line to get us through this crisis.
The Government should change course, now.