“THE model for funding social care is broken and we urgently need your support to ensure we can continue to care for those most in need.”
Those are the words of Bill Revans, leader of Somerset Council, in a letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) calling for action to fix the funding of social care.
The council’s Executive last week declared a “financial emergency” in the county, with budget papers showing a funding gap of £100 million for 2024/25 – due mainly to an expected increase of £70m in the cost of adult social care.
Without immediate action, it said the crisis could lead to Somerset being forced to follow the likes of Birmingham and Woking councils by issuing a S114 notice – effectively declaring the council bankrupt.
Now, in a letter to Mr Gove, Cllr Revans (Lib Dem, North Petherton) said the current funding formula for local government does not reflect the actual needs and costs of providing essential public services.
“Our overspend position is not because of poor control or oversight, nor policy decisions or legal action – rather it is simply an exceptionally large increase in our costs for demand-led services, set against our constrained ability to raise additional income,” he said.
“The model for funding social care is broken and we urgently need your support to ensure we can continue to care for those most in need.”
Cllr Revans said Somerset Council is managing its finances prudently and responsibly – delivering a unitary council to streamline public services, working in partnership with the NHS, voluntary sector and city, town and parish councils, selling assets and reviewing all areas of spending.
However, he warned it will not be enough to close the gap between income and spending on demand-led services.
His letter urged Mr Gove to take action to ensure adult social care funding is addressed as part of the forthcoming Autumn Statement and Local Government Finance Settlement.
The leader has also written to all Somerset MPs to highlight the emergency and ask for their support by lobbying government on behalf of all residents in their constituencies.
It comes after county MP Marcus Fysh (Con, Yeovil), blamed the crisis on the Lib Dem administration.
“Lib Dem mismanagement is indeed a cancer on the body politic of Somerset,” he said. “We had to deal with their massive debt legacy before and their massive new deficits are a financial health crisis.
“The council faces bankruptcy with vital local services at risk.”
However, former Conservative Cllr Dean Ruddle (Lib Dem, Somerton) – who quit the Tories over the former administration’s handling of a previous financial crisis – recently wrote to Helen Whately, the Minister of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, to explain how numerous external factors have contributed to the soaring costs of adult social care.
Cllr Ruddle is now the lead member for adult social care at Somerset Council.