Council tax increases of £1.4m in Oxfordshire will not cover inflation in adult social care and the service faces 'huge pressure'

Thw extra £4.1million raised through a council tax rise to cover pressures on adult social care will not cover the inflation Oxfordshire County Council expects.

Councillors say the rise in council tax will not cover the necessary expenses for Adult Social Care. Picture by Getty
Councillors say the rise in council tax will not cover the necessary expenses for Adult Social Care. Picture by Getty

The county is set to put up its portion of council tax by 4.99 per cent overall for the financial year 2022-23 - one per cent higher than budgeted for last year - adding £78.50 per year to the bill for an average property.

The additional one per cent, which the county’s cabinet member for finance Councillor Calum Miller (Lib Dem, Otmoor) said had been implemented “with regret”, will generate £4.1million specifically for an adult services sector which is budgeted to spend £211.8million in the next financial year, £13.3million than this year.

In its adjusted medium term financial strategy (MTFS), the authority expects to need to cover £20.5 million worth of extra financial pressures and investments overall. £4.4 million of that is assigned to “care market sustainability - additional inflation provision post Covid-19 pandemic” under its adult services.

The council plans to make savings of £12.77 million across all departments but the £7.1million gap to its extra spend is then doubled by a further £7million shortfall, “predominantly due to the impact of funding reforms”, from what last year’s MTFS had expected.

The council expects to cover the £14.1million through the council tax rise and £10million more in business rates after plans for a new funding formula were delayed.

Cllr Miller explained there remained “considerable uncertainty” over the budget proposals with significant pressures over the funding of services for vulnerable adults and children.

“There has been support from central government for some of our Covid expenditure to date but what we see across our services are a number of ways in which the pressures of Covid are expressing themselves through demand, whether that is assessments that did not take place or new and arising pressures post-Covid,” he said.

“We have set the budget in that context, aware that there will be further pressures but somewhat unaware of how they will fall.

“There is also policy uncertainty. National government announced its build back proposals for social care on September 7 and then published a white paper later in the year, after the spending review.

“That sets out a bold set of proposals for the reconfiguration of aspects of adult social care but does not provide a great deal of funding for some of the huge pressures we are facing.

“We do face considerable underfunding, I think it is fair to say. You will be aware of the story in adult social care but also in the high needs block within education. For many years the government has been underfunding that side of things and requiring us to run a deficit.

"That is very problematic for us and other councils in that it represents an ongoing liability that has yet to be resolved.”