Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show councils are budgeting to retain £10.8 billion in reserves by the end of this financial year – only slightly down on the £11 billion the previous year.
Some councils have actually seen sharp increases. Labour-run Leicester, for example, is planning for reserves of £38 million – up from £20 million the previous year. According to the Leicester Mercury they are planning a 3.5% Council Tax increase. The council is also planning to make their non residential social care charging "fairer" – by increasing the charges. There will be charges introduced to attend day care centres. The weekly cap of £203 on the maximum paid for care services will be removed. Hourly home care charges will go up from £11.25 to £12.75.
The council says:
At present, some people receive services which are subsidised by the council. This is unfair on people who receive non-subsidised services. There is a maximum weekly amount (£203) that people are asked to contribute towards the services they receive. Setting a maximum amount reduces income from charges, and this reduces the amount of money that is potentially available to support vulnerable people in Leicester. The current charging arrangements do not fit well with meeting individual needs. Some people will choose services that are free or subsidised, rather than those they really need.
There is an argument that Council Taxpayers in Leicester on low incomes should not have to subsidise those on high incomes who use home care services. But in Leicester everyone seems to be getting clobbered.
What does Liz Kendall the Labour MP for Leicester West and the Shadow Minister for Care and Older People think of her Labour Council's plans?
She says increases home care charges for older and disabled people were "a stealth tax on the most vulnerable in society."
At least that what she says generally. Perhaps when it comes to her own constituents her view is more nuanced. Labour have put in FOI requests to see what different councils have been charging. I hope they will publish the full list. Apparently they found that the average home care charge is now £13.49 an hour. I expect Liz will wish to congratulate Hammersmith and Fulham on keeping the charge below average at £12 an hour.