Agenda item

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR)


22.1     The Chair introduced the item, setting out that the report was the next stage of the Committee’s engagement in the annual RPPR process and noting that the Committee was asked to consider if any further work or information was required to aid the Committee’s December RPPR Board. The Director of Adult Social Care and Chief Finance Officer then introduced the report which set out the Council’s latest policy and financial position in planning for the 2022/23 financial year.


22.2     Further guidance on the national ASC reforms announced in September (introducing a lifetime cap on personal care costs and more generous means-test for local authority financial support) had been published. The Director of Adult Social Care gave a verbal update to the Committee on the further detail provided, which covered:


·         Social care allowances - from April 2022, the Minimum Income Guarantee for those receiving care in their own homes and the Personal Expenses Allowance for care home residents would be un-frozen and rise in line with inflation. Effectively, this would mean that people would need to contribute slightly less to the cost of their care.


·         Daily Living Costs – the lifetime cap on personal care costs would not cover Daily Living Costs for people in care homes. For simplicity, Daily Living Costs would be set at a national, notional £200 per week. The ASC Department had some concerns this rate did not truly reflect living costs (a national proposal in 2015 had suggested this figure should be £230 per week) and could, as a result, increase the proportion of care home fees local authorities would need to resource.


·         Cap implementation –

o   from October 2023, anyone assessed by a local authority as having eligible care needs would begin to progress towards the £86,000 lifetime care cap. For each person with eligible needs, the local authority must provide either a personal budget, where the local authority would meet the person’s needs, or an independent personal budget (IPB), where the individual would arrange their own care. The personal budget would set out the cost to the local authority of the care they had arranged, whereas the IPB would set out what it would have cost the local authority to meet the person’s needs. In order to do this, every local authority would need to determine affordable care rates for their area. This also meant that, in practice, people being assessed for care in an area with high care rates would reach the care cap much faster than areas with lower rates.


o   Local authorities would be required to set up care accounts to track individuals’ progress towards the care cap, with guidance placing the legal responsibility on local authorities to tell people when they had reached the cap. This made it vital for ESCC to ensure that there was a robust system in place for tracking personal care costs and informing people when they reached the cap.


22.3     The Director and Chief Finance Officer concluded that, on initial assessment, the further detail provided indicated that the reforms would result in potential resource challenges for ESCC. It was uncertain whether the funding allocated to implement the reforms (£3.6bn grant funding nationally over the next three years – with £200m allocated in 2022/23, £1.4bn in 2023/24 and £2bn in 2024/25) would be sufficient to cover the new duties set out, as detailed allocations to individual authorities were awaited, and the broader resourcing requirements needed to implement the reforms were also uncertain.


22.4     The Chief Finance Officer then provided a verbal update on announcements made in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Autumn Budget. This covered that £4.8bn additional funding for local government had been announced, which was expected to be allocated as £1.6bn per year over the next three years, with individual authorities’ allocations still to be determined. Additional funding has also been announced to support children’s services nationally and for Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) provision. The implications for ESCC of the range of funding announced would be clearer once the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement was provided closer to Christmas. The referendum limit for Council Tax would be maintained at 2% and a 1% ASC Levy had been announced for each year of the CSR period.


22.5     The Chief Finance Officer also provided a verbal update on COVID funding and pressures. For the 2021/22 financial year the Council had been allocated just short of £70m to spend on COVID-related activity and pressures and the Council was awaiting clarity on whether some of this grant funding could be carried forward to meet pressures in future years. A proportion of COVID funding was being spent on ASC services, but growth and demography pressures had not had to be captured in the 2021/22 budget, or in 2022/23, as a sad consequence of the high death rate during the pandemic. Funding for growth and demography pressures in ASC was expected to be required in future years. In Children’s Social Care, COVID funding had supported an additional £3.4m in the budget in 2021/22 to cover pressures arising from the increasing cost of care packages during the pandemic. This pressure would need to be factored into the 2022/23 budget again and further modelling was required to understand the long-term impact of COVID on children’s services to ensure that sufficient funding was being allocated to meet need.


22.6     The Committee then discussed the report and the updates from the Director and Chief Finance Officer, which covered:


·         Funding announcements and allocations – the Committee asked if it was still expected that Government would provide a three-year finance settlement for local government alongside the three-year CSR, noting that the last-minute nature of funding announcements and repeated one-year finance settlements in recent years had made it difficult for ESCC to plan its budgets. The Chief Finance Officer answered that the CSR had provided indicative funding levels for local government for the 2022/23-2024/25 period, but not allocations for local government for each financial year. Councils were therefore expecting to receive one-year grant allocations for 2022/23, with only an indication of funding for future years. The Committee also commented that Government’s expectation that local authorities would use the ASC precept to fund increasing demand for ASC services was an unsatisfactory solution for residents.  


·         Savings plans – the Committee raised concerns about the potential impact of planned reductions to the stock fund of the libraries service on older people who may be less able to access the eBooks online. It was requested that the Committee consider the equalities impact of this in the next stage of the RPPR process. It was also requested that consideration should be given to using income raised from the increase in on-street parking charges to increase the number of Civil Parking Enforcement officers around schools. (Post-Committee note: these issues were referred to the Chair of the Place Scrutiny Committee for consideration through the Place RPPR Board). The Committee also requested that further options were explored to alleviate the need for planned savings in Children’s Services.


·         Lobbying – in response to a question from the Committee about what lobbying was taking place to ensure Government understood the important role ASC services played and the associated benefits to health services of ASC being appropriately funded, the Director of ASC confirmed that lobbying took place nationally through the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association. This lobbying emphasised that given national demographic changes, the pressures on the health and social care workforce and the impact of COVID, it was vitally important that both health and social care services were appropriately funded. It was also noted that locally, NHS colleagues actively helped ESCC make the case to Government for social care services to receive adequate funding in order for the system to provide high quality, integrated services.


·         Cost of ASC reforms – in response to a question from the Committee, the Director clarified that although initial assessments suggested ASC reforms would result in new cost pressures for the Council, further detailed assessment of the impact was required. This included undertaking complex work to estimate the increased number of people that may contact the Council for support, the cost of the support they would require and the impact on the care market. Further information would be provided to the Committee on the impact when it was available.


·         Attendance Allowance – the Committee asked for further information to be provided, when available, on how attendance allowance would be classified in the new ASC charging arrangements.  


22.7     The Committee RESOLVED to note the update. </AI5><AI6>


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