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Government under fire for overburdening councils

Local Authorities are coping admirably with central government cuts, but a new report from the National Audit Office suggests that demands being placed on councils may have been underestimated.

Reducing relianceDukes-Overburden

The NAO’s latest report centres on the first phase implementation of the The 2014 Care Act, which was introduced to reduce reliance on formal care while encouraging independence and greater individual control of care and support.

Auditors found that 99% of councils were confident of being able to carry out the reforms from April 2015, but there are worrying signs that the burden may be greater than previously expected.

The main task for councils is assessing the demands of carers as part of the government’s broader “new burdens doctrine”, which dictates that local authorities be fully assessed in order to receive accurate, proportional funding from the correct central government departments.

The problem, the NAO suggests, is that the policy is burdening councils with assessment costs, but failing to effectively use, or even share, the information.

Rising costs

The DCLG reportedly estimated the amount of assessments and services that would be required under the new Care Act reforms using current Carers Allowance recipients. However, the NAO calculated that if everyone eligible who had applied for support and hadn't claimed it were to seek an assessment there would be additional costs of £27m in extra assessments and services. That’s 26% of the current budget, and a serious cost to austerity-bound councils.

Claire Kober of the Local Government Association told The Guardian that “funding for recent new burdens, such as the increase in deprivation of liberty assessments and the new local government transparency code, was not received by councils before they incurred new costs. This has added significant pressure on local services.”

NAO head Amyas Morse has called on the DCLG to “use intelligence from the new burdens regime to improve its understanding of the pressures affecting authorities’ financial sustainability”.

While we wait for a response from Westminster, fiscal responsibility is more important than ever. To protect front line services from further cuts, councils must ensure cash flow remains healthy. That means not only implementing new legislation in an efficient manner, but taking the tough decisions and ensuring revenue is collected and managed to maximum effect. For help recovering debts, contact a Dukes Bailiffs advisor today.

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