District councils must be able to raise council tax by 2 per cent to invest in prevention measures that would help relieve the ever increasing demand on social care and NHS budgets.
The District Councils’ Network, which represents 200 district councils across England, is calling on the Government ahead of this year’s budget to allow district councils to introduce a new 2 per cent prevention precept on council tax to maintain and invest further in prevention services such as improving housing, providing leisure and recreational facilities, offering debt advice, tackling homelessness, supporting troubled families and improving air quality all of which help reduce demand on social care and health services.
Analysis by the DCN in its budget submission has found that a 2 per cent precept could raise up to an additional £25 million for district councils which would help to keep residents and their families from needing to access acute social care and the NHS by reducing demand for these services.
For a Band D property in a district area this would be an estimated 7p per week increase on the current average district council tax charge.
For every £1 spent on prevention, district councils say they can make up to £70 worth of savings on health spending in the long term. For example:
- By adapting 100,000 homes to meet the needs of older people, districts could save the NHS £69 for every pound spent.
- Investing in sport, leisure and recreation – core district functions – not only delivers health benefits but can generate £11.2 billion a year in savings, £1.7 billion of which is thought to be via savings to health care-associated costs.
- By improving 100,000 homes to protect older people from the cold weather districts could save the NHS £34.19 for every pound spent.
- The average cost to the State of a fractured hip is £28,665. This is 4.7 times the average cost of a major housing adaptation (£6,000) and 100 times the cost of fitting hand and grab rails to prevent falls.
With adult social care at a tipping point district councils want to play their part in reducing the burden on the social care system and in turn the NHS. According to the Local Government Association, adult social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020, with no signs of these pressures abating.
Whilst some of these pressures have been met by a one-off £2 billion injection into the system, no durable solution has been found. The DCN has been clear that changes to the New Homes Bonus to fund a very small part of this does not constitute a solution as it simply recycles existing local government funding. The New Homes Bonus must instead continue to reward increasing housing growth.
A 2 per cent prevention precept would give district councils additional resources to address health and wellbeing issues in their communities before people require more formalised acute based intervention.
Cllr John Fuller, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:
“It is time the Government recognised the important role district councils play in prevention and early intervention. We know that for everyone £1 spent, district councils can save the NHS up to £70, just by adapting homes to prevent falls, improving home insulation and heating or providing recreational and leisure services.
“A 2 per cent prevention precept would go some way to reducing pressures on the social care system, by solving rather than managing problems, and allowing resources to be refocused on tackling problems one family at a time before they occur.
“Prevention is always better than cure. If we are to reduce pressures on the NHS and stop people from entering the social care system unnecessarily, districts council must be given the resources to invest in prevention.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- DCN’s Autumn Budget Submission can be found here
- The district council contribution to public health: a time of challenge and opportunity
- Statistics relating to the average cost of treating hip fractures can be found here.
- LGA analysis on the annual funding gap in adult social care can be found here.