Proposals to meet the increasing cost of adult social care for people in County Durham have been approved by councillors.
Members of Durham County Council agreed the plans when approving the authority’s 2022/23 budget proposals and its Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) forecasts.
A report to today’s meeting, which had already been discussed by the council’s Cabinet, details how the council faces significant and unavoidable cost pressures, following its Local Government settlement allocation in December. These total over £45 million next year, with £19.5 million of this being driven by inflation pressures and changes in the population which are having an effect on adult and children’s social care services.
In addition, the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CRS), which was published in October 2021, announced a 6.6 per cent increase in the National Living Wage from April 2022, which has a significant impact upon adult social care costs the council will incur in 2022/23.
Despite this, there will be no increase in the core council tax in County Durham for next year. An increase of three per cent in the social care element will help meet the rise in social care costs by generating an additional £7million. This increase is below the government’s expectations and below the five per cent maximum available to the council before requiring a referendum.
The additional income will help the council to protect frontline services while also covering significant budget pressures such as the additional costs associated with the increase in the National Living Wage.
The MTFP will also see continued support to protect the 34,431 working age households in the county on low incomes, through the continuation of the existing Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
A total of 80 per cent of those households will continue to be entitled to 100 per cent relief against their council tax payments and those left with a bill will receive up to £150 of additional support next year.
Work is also ongoing with health partners to ensure health and social care funds are maximised for the benefit of vulnerable people through the services the council provides.
Cllr Paul Sexton, Cabinet member for adults and health services, said: “There is a strong track record of health and social care integration in County Durham. Our aim is to build on the financial and practical support we have provided to the care sector during the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring we have a high-quality care market that is sustainable in the future.
“There are significant pressures which we face to accommodate adult social care but it is vital that we meet the needs of our residents.
“We appreciate that rises in council tax are difficult, but we must increase the adult social care precept to offset the pressures we face. The increase is below those of other local authorities and below the government’s expectations.
“Cabinet has carefully balanced the need to generate additional resources from a council tax increase against cost of living increases faced by our residents.
“As always we strive to be flexible in our approach as we look to support residents the best way that we can – with significant support for financially vulnerable people through our Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme also available.”