Peter Aldous highlights the challenges facing the county council on the cost of social care

7th February 2018

Speaking in a debate on local government finance Peter Aldous outlines the pressures facing Suffolk county council, in particular, the rising costs of adult social care and children’s services.

I will not detain the House for long. The local government finance settlement is of particular interest to me due to the significant challenges that councils face in areas such as Suffolk in delivering services, particularly adult social care and children’s services. I am the chairman of the county all-party parliamentary group and in that role, along with many colleagues, I have made my concerns known to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I am grateful to both of them for listening to those concerns and to the Secretary of State for providing an additional £150 million of funding for adult social care and an extra £16 million for the rural services delivery grant. From all that, £78.4 million will go to counties to help in the delivery of vital services. For Suffolk, there is an additional £2 million for the additional social care grant and £500,000 for the rural services delivery grant. The additional funds are welcome, as is the business rates retention pilot, which should provide Suffolk with an additional £10.5 million for economic growth-related projects.

However, additional money only goes some way towards meeting the rising costs of social care, both in Suffolk and other counties across England and Wales. Such areas face unique pressures as they are home to the largest and fastest-growing elderly populations. It is vital that the Government deliver a properly resourced, long-term, sustainable fair funding system to meet the estimated £2.54 billion county funding gap in 2021. I acknowledge the Secretary of State’s firm commitment to the fair funding review, which must result in a properly and fully researched, up-to-date, evidence-based solution that recognises both the demographic pressures of an ageing population and the actual cost of providing services in county areas. I sense a real strength of feeling among colleagues on both sides of the Chamber representing constituencies in county areas about the need for additional funding to plug the £2.54 billion gap, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), will confirm when he sums up that the fair funding review will take full account both of need and of the actual cost of providing vital services in counties such as Suffolk.

In some ways, I find it sad that we appear to be dividing counties and metropolitan areas with a “them and us” attitude. My constituency of Waveney is in a county area—north Suffolk—and believe me, Lowestoft is not a wealthy place and, looking at the current figures, I do not believe that we get the resources we need to tackle the deep-seated pockets of deprivation. We need to do something in a sensible and, dare I say it, collegiate way.

Let us bring the debate back to where it needs to be. I do not think that this is about “us and them” or counties versus metropolitan areas; this is about the sheer unfair nature of the cuts. The 10 most deprived councils see the highest cuts while the wealthiest councils do not. Will the hon. Gentleman at least accept that?

As I said, I do not represent a wealthy area, and many sacrifices have had to be made on all sides, but we need to consider things in a calm and rational way to try to come up with a solution that is fair to all. That may well involve putting additional funding into the Budget, which may be the only way to find a solution that gets approval from the majority, if not everyone.

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