Red Lines

Government's council cuts hit NHS



In the week that councils across the capital set their budgets, London’s Labour councillors are warning of a £750 million black hole in social care funding that is pushing the NHS to the brink.

Central government funding for local councils has been slashed. In the decade from 2010, government funding for councils will have fallen by 70 per cent. The most deprived areas of the country have been hit hardest. London, with massive government cuts to its police service, schools and councils, is being bled dry.

The impact of government cuts is increasingly clear on social care and the NHS. New figures from NHS England show that the number of NHS bed-days lost to delayed transfers of care in the capital has hit a record high. In December, 16,000 bed-days were lost, up from 11,000 in December 2012. The rise in delayed discharges has been driven by patients who cannot be discharged because they are awaiting a placement in a residential home or a nursing home or waiting for a care package. This accounted for 7,000 bed-days in December 2016, double the number five years earlier. The growing challenge of delayed transfers of care was portrayed in the recent reality TV series, Hospital, which was set in London.

As a result of the savage government cuts to council funding, the vast majority of London boroughs are being forced to raise council tax to protect vital public services. But even if every borough implemented the government’s adult social care precept in full and raised council tax by 1.99 per cent in each of the next three years, a black hole of over £750 million would still remain in council finances to pay for adult social care in the capital by 2020.

There is a growing national consensus about the need for more funding for adult social care. Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, recently highlighted the impact of cuts to social care on the NHS, saying, “If there were to be any extra money available any time soon, then in my opinion social care should be at the front of the queue”.

Cllr Andy Hull, Chair of the Red Lines campaign group and Executive Member for Finance at the London Borough of Islington, said:

“The government is shifting the cost of caring for older, disabled and vulnerable people onto council taxpayers, leaving London local authorities facing a financial black hole. We warned last year of the widening funding gap, but we have not seen any serious action by the government to plug it. This government failure is now having a damaging impact on the NHS”.

“The government’s social care precept is a sticking plaster on a haemorrhage. Even when the precept is applied in full, with hard-pressed council taxpayers footing the bill, there remains a £750 million black hole in resources to pay for adult social care in London by 2020. The Chancellor must use his Budget next month to announce an urgent review of adult social care funding and give local councils the resources they need to support their residents.”  

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Government cuts to social care funding are a double whammy. They are hitting council taxpayers in the pocket, and NHS patients are paying the price. Labour councils are working hard to keep services running but relentless financial pressure from the Government is making their job impossible. Ministers know that the money available won’t meet the needs of everyone looking for social care, but it’s not right that some areas like Surrey get special treatment while others lose out. The Government are creating a two tier system. This is a national problem of the government’s making and it demands a national response.”  



  • London’s population of older people is set to rise by more than 6 per cent between now and 2020.
  • Around 175,000 Londoners are in receipt of adult social care services from local councils this year, with the number set to increase to over 180,000 by 2020.
  • London councils combined spent £2.2 billion on adult social care over the last year, which represents over a third of all their spending. Some boroughs spent as much as 43 per cent of their budgets on providing care and support for older and vulnerable residents.
  • The Local Government Association has observed that, even after full application of both the government’s adult social care precept and the Better Care Fund, there will be a national funding gap for adult social care of £2.6 billion.
  • The Government’s separate ‘Adult Social Care Support Grant’ will also not address the funding shortage facing London councils, as funding for the £241 million national scheme is taken from top-slicing the New Homes Bonus budget, meaning London is actually a net loser in funding by around £11 million in 2017/18.

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