Councils cutting spend on care of elderly and disabled

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Care Home Funding Advocates has been following the story in the Telegraph.

Councils are cutting their spending on care of elderly people even though the majority have not dipped into their financial reserves, the National Audit Office will say today.

The spending watchdog found local authorities are only halfway through the £7 billion of savings they will need to make by 2015, but there is “emerging evidence” that front-line services are suffering.

 National Audit Office said councils are coping with the budget cuts imposed by Whitehall. However, it also highlighted libraries and care of the elderly and disabled as two areas where councils are “reducing services”.

It warned that the pressure on councils to slash spending on adult social care and children’s services will increase as these are by far the two biggest areas of spending.

Despite these squeezed budgets, the report also said the majority of councils have not actually dipped into their financial reserves yet.

Around two-thirds of councils have not drawn down any of their buffer funds, which last year led Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, to accuse some of “hoarding billions while pleading poverty”.

This may change in future years as the National Audit Office said councils may find it “harder to absorb funding reductions and maintain services” over the next two years of budget cuts”.

The spending authority said councils may increasingly have to consider “managing demand or reducing services”

Margaret Hodge MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, last night expressed concern that many councils have already “rationed services, such as adult social care and libraries”

She said the Department of Communities and Local Government will need to prepare for bail-outs of failing councils.

“As the cuts kick in, the Department needs to make clear what it will do if multiple authorities fail financially,” she said.

“In addition, my committee will expect the Department to provide us with a clear statement on the financial impact of the Government’s changes to authorities’ funding and income and what this might mean for local services.”

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