Norfolk MP condemns ‘feeble’ social care plan as new money is pledged

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb

A Norfolk MP has dismissed government plans for extra funding and higher tax rises to fund adult social care as “feeble.”

Ministers have announced they will provide an extra £4.2 million for adult social care services in the county next year.

But council tax bills may also rise by more than previously thought after the government allowed authorities to raise the amount they put bills up by to fund the sector.

And the leader of Norfolk County Council has warned the measures are “only a start.”

The additional government funding, which was announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, is to be drawn from cuts to the New Homes Bonus which is paid to councils to meet house-building targets.

Authorities will also be able to raise council tax by up to three per cent on top of the 1.98 per cent they can impose without holding a local referendum, instead of this year’s maximum of two per cent.

If implemented, that would mean plans for a six per cent tax rise over three years would be brought forward, with no dedicated increase to fund social care in 2019-20.

But, speaking in the House of Commons, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the plan for higher tax rises was unfair and would increase inequalities between rich and poor areas.

He said: “This is, surely, a truly feeble response to a national crisis.

“The LGA (Local Government Association) would be entitled to reject the proposal and put the ball firmly back in the government’s court, for them to think again.”

However, Mr Javid insisted the plans were fair and did take local tax-raising abilities into account.

He said: “Where councils have more demand for services locally, they should be given the power to deal with that.”

Norfolk County Council leader Cliff Jordan welcomed the extra investment, but insisted the challenges the authority faces will not be solved that easily.

He said: “It’s a start but, in our opinion, it is only a start and there needs to be more money in future years.

“We don’t want to pass the burden on to hard-pressed council tax payers – particularly those whom the government themselves identified as ‘just about managing.’

“But, of all the areas Norfolk County Council has responsibility for, adult social services is most at mercy of a need over which we have no control and it’s a need which grows every year.”

Members will debate the new proposals in the new year, before a final budget for the coming financial year is decided in February.

But Mr Jordan admitted they would not plug the funding gap.

He said: “The number of people aged over 85 in Norfolk is increasing at one of the fastest rates in the country and this is the age at which people do begin to need quite high levels of extra help and support as they become more frail.

“We estimate just meeting this increased need in the coming year will cost us more than £6 million.

“That’s before we look at other areas like funding the National Living Wage for the essential care workers in Norfolk, which will be another £5 million, or continuing to play our part in partnerships projects to support vulnerable people across Norfolk.”