Council leader says National Insurance rise won’t help pay for social care in Bedford

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The increase in National Insurance will not help pay for social care in Bedford, the council heard.

Councillor Michael Headley (Liberal Democrats, Putnoe Ward) Bedford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for finance, told the Executive Meeting (15 September) that, in the short term, the council isn’t expecting any change in the way social care funding will be raised.

He said that while residents may believe the extra National Insurance payment will pay for social care, a direct quote from the Government’s ‘Building Back Better: Our Plan for Health and Social Care’ document shows that this isn’t the case.

Councillor Headley highlighted part of the document that states: “We expect demographic and unit cost pressures will be met through Council Tax, social care precept, and long-term efficiencies”.

“This is the situation we’ve been in up to now and that will continue to be the case based on this”, he said.

“It may well be that the social care precept may continue into future years.”

Councillor Headley said that local authorities will have a clearer idea of the policy following October’s Spending Reveiw.

Councillor Henry Vann (Liberal Democrats, De Parys Ward) asked: “I just wanted to check that I understood what you were saying.

“So, despite the government announcement around the National Insurance increase, which we all know is horrendously unfair anyway; it wipes out the nurses’ pay rise, it targets the poorest people.

“Even people who don’t pay income tax will be paying National Insurance.

“So despite that announcement being unfair and targeting the poorest, it doesn’t even, according to the government’s own papers, do anything towards addressing the social care funding nightmare?

“The prime minister’s announcements are complete nonsense, as far as I can see, and complete fiction according to their [the government’s] own words.

“Have I understood that correctly?”

Councillor Headley replied: “I believe you have. This comes with the caveat that the government will announce more guidance and more detail as time goes on.

“But I think it is very clear that a lot of the money will initially go to the NHS so it won’t be there for social care.

“We have to remember that when the money is there for social care, it will effectively be replacing funds that people would have, perhaps, paid out of their own private assets.

“In reality, more public sector money will be needed to replace people’s own assets that would have paid [towards social care].

“That’s the policy that has been put in place. That money isn’t going to improve social care provision, it is replacing private individuals’ contributions with public contributions.”

Councillor Headley said that using council tax to raise this funding is equally as unfair as raising National Insurance as it also hits people on low incomes proportionately worse.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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