North Yorkshire budget highlights very real crisis in social care and SEND funding

England’s largest county will hear that North Yorkshire desperately needs clarity around long-term funding solutions, particularly for adult social care and special educational needs, in the face of what’s described as “unrelenting demand”.

 North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will consider the authority’s budget

Next week (February 4), North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will consider the authority’s budget, ahead of it going to full council later in the month (February 19). The report outlines how North Yorkshire’s financial planning is dependent on nearly £62 million of temporary funding meaning, like many councils, it continues to operate amid great uncertainty. The temporary funding comes after the Council has lost around £136 million in direct grants from government since 2011 when austerity began.

Together with the overall savings North Yorkshire has had to deliver and the rise in demand the council’s spending power has been reduced by 40 per cent.

Cllr Carl Les, North Yorkshire County Council’s Leader, said: “We welcome the new Government honouring the pledge to provide the additional social care funding and to repeat the one-off grants for a further year which helps us to continue to deliver high-quality services. We are also grateful to the county’s MPs for their advocacy in helping us to ensure that North Yorkshire has a voice at national level.

“However, we urgently need an end to temporary funding and a more permanent solution via a full spending review that covers three to four years so we can plan properly given the escalating demand for services.”

Cllr Gareth Dadd, deputy leader and executive member for finance, said: “North Yorkshire rightly has a reputation for sound financial management, delivering high-quality services and being forward-thinking in its approach. We have always understood we needed to have a strong grip on our budget and we are very much focused on being in good shape for future pressures.

“The reality though is that two of our biggest areas of spend are now significantly underfunded. Adults who need social care and children with special educational needs are some for the most vulnerable people we look after and the services we offer can be life-saving and life-changing. We want the best for our residents.

“We need a sustainable solution not sticking plasters or continuing social care precepts, which push the costs for adult social care onto local people. Given the unrelenting demand we face we have had to utilise the precept option, but this is not something we want to rely on looking ahead. 

“Alongside those challenges we have to identify a further £40 million in savings over the next four years. The Budget report sets out plans for £21 million of that but we still have £19 million to find. We need financial clarity so we are not planning in the dark.”

The budget package includes a proposal that council tax would rise by 3.99 per cent, the equivalent of £4.36 per month or £1 per week.

The council’s director of resources Gary Fielding said: “Our ask of Government is for a national funding solution for the adult social care crisis and clarification around budget and responsibilities relating to the escalating number of children with special educational needs.

“Alongside this we desperately need more capital funding for our highways and school buildings and a devolution deal which best serves the county’s people and businesses.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public who took part in our recent budget consultation. These are important decisions, your views matter and we had a good response.”

Read the full report.

This story was published 28 January 2020