West Berkshire Council takes government to judicial review over shortfall in care funding
WEST Berkshire Council is taking legal action against the Department for Health over an estimated £3m shortfall in care funding.
Changes to the Care Act, which come into effect on April 1 20015, means the Conservative-controlled council will be responsible for paying millions more every year in social care.
Council leader Gordon Lundie, last week warned that it will be forced to consider making further cuts to services or raising council tax if central government do not agree to pay the extra money.
He said: "We need to find an extra £3m and we think the government should be paying for that so we are challenging their decision in the High Court.
"It is a pretty extreme step for two Tory councils to be suing the Department for Health, especially in the lead up to a General Election, but we feel like we have no other option.
"If we cannot make an effort to get the money then we will have to make savings elsewhere or raise council tax, it's that simple."
Currently there are four categories of need for carers - critical, substantial, moderate and low. Local authorities only have to provide services to those who fall within the critical band.
A person must be deemed as 'critical' to be eligible for financial help from West Berkshire Council.
However, the changes to the Care Act means that people deemed as 'substantial' may also eligible. This means the council will need to pay out more than they currently do.
Mr Lundie feels that the government's decision to split funding equally between council's in England is a mistake.
He added: "The problem is they (the government) have divided £28m equally across all councils instead of seeing which councill's will be affected most and how much each is spending."
When asked why the council only funds people deemed as critical when other authorities fund both critical and substantial, Mr Lundie added: "The change (to offer funding to both critical and substantial to just critical) was brought in by the last Liberal Democrat administration ten years ago as they were finding that care costs were growing quite substantially.
"We have not changed that as it would mean needing to find more savings on top of the ones we already have to make."
The Care Act is mainly for adults in need of care and support and their adult carers.
It outlines the way in which local authorities should carry out carer’s assessments and needs assessments, how local authorities should determine who is eligible for support, the new obligations on local authorities and how local authorities should charge for both residential care and community care.