Prime Minister Theresa May
Published: 15 December, 2016
THE government is playing piggyback politics with the elderly.
Faced with a growing social care crisis, which has been gestating for the past few years, the government is setting out to cover the rising bills for the elderly by increasing tax.
But it is going about it in a rather underhand way by, effectively, forcing local authorities to meet social care commitments through their council tax demands.
The government could quite easily cover the soaring costs by increasing national insurance tax but has no doubt reasoned that an indirect method of tax collection, which would put the whole operation arm’s length from Whitehall, is politically more palatable.
That way, a disgruntled electorate, casting around for someone to blame, will be expected to direct their ire at the Town Hall. It is passing the buck on a grand scale – as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.
Today (Thursday), a government announcement may be made pointing in this direction.
This means that Camden Council, along with other councils, will have little choice than to impose a “social care supplement” next year. Camden has said it will introduce a 4 per cent increase for the next two years.
But all indications appear to show that even if Camden Council were to put up council tax by a 6 or 7 per cent increase it would not bring in sufficient revenue to meet the rising costs of the social care sector.
Key services that could be threatened include those that provide medical help for the elderly at home – for example, nursing teams or post-stroke or heart rehab courses – as well as the provision of transport to luncheon clubs, all the more necessary now that the council is, in effect, tending to centralise its services.
The cost of caring for the elderly will continue to rise inexorably. No matter how much cost-trimming is embarked on, it will hardly touch the problem.
The crisis is of a scale politicians have never had to face before.
Under New Labour, private money – through, for instance, the now discredited Private Finance Initiative scheme – was used to build new schools and hospitals.
Direct state intervention was to be avoided at all costs.
In a sense, Mrs May’s government appears to be sailing in the same direction.
Though Britain has developed since the 1970s one of the most centralised economies in the world, local councils are now likely to be saddled with burdens that should be the responsibility of Whitehall.
Once again the government is burying its head in the sand.