Hammond expected to tackle housing, care and 'Jams'

By Heather Jameson and Thomas Bridge | 23 November 2016

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to reveal an Autumn Statement tackling housing, social care costs and providing help for struggling families when he speaks later today. 

While Mr Hammond is not expected to produce any fanfare measures beloved of his predecessor, George Osborne, he is widely expected to put cash into affordable homes and ban letting agents from charging fees. 

Local government is hopeful of some reprise on social care, in a bid to tackle rising costs and protect the National Health Service.

An extension of the social care precept or bringing forward the Better Care Fund have both been mooted to relieve budget pressures. 

The national debt is expected to have risen so Mr Hammond, who has already loosened the fiscal promises of Mr Osborne, is unlikely to have much to give away – but any extra cash is likely to be targeted towards the ‘just about managing’ or ‘Jams’.

Last week, local government experts urged the chancellor to give more detail on the future finance of the sector. 

Writing in The MJ, chief executive of the LGiU think-tank, Jonathan Carr-West, said councils ‘really need details’ on business rates redistribution alongside ‘transparency’ over future allocation of revenue support grant before it is phased out in 2020.

However, Dr Carr-West conceded there would be ‘little prospect’ the statement would deliver more funding, greater fiscal devolution or control over acute health spending for local government.

Chief executive of Birmingham City Council and former president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, Mark Rogers, said the Government would need to answer the ‘mothballed question’ of long-term funding for social care, ‘bringing forward the enhancement’ of the Better Care Fund and giving the sector the ‘breathing space we need’.

Concerns over the future of care funding were echoed by chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, Rob Whiteman, who warned the much-trailed relaxation of the social care precept would only represent an ‘annual sticking plaster’ for local government.

Mr Whiteman pushed the chancellor to consider abolishing the council tax referendum but warned the UK’s economic situation meant ‘any meaningful reprieve for a cash-strapped public sector will be difficult to achieve’ in the statement.

Local Government Association chairman Gary Porter called for the removal of financial ‘barriers’ – including restrictions on the Housing Revenue Account and planning fees – that were ‘limiting’ council efforts to support economic growth.

Despite some optimism the Government may act to plug the adult social care funding gap next week, Smith Square has warned that children’s services is facing an even larger budget shortfall.

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Budgets and efficiency Whitehall Finance Adult social care Housing Autumn Statement