Policy priority 3: A longer term vision
Develop a sustainable social care budget
- Use this power to match need with spending, avoiding waste
- Use council tax to increase the social care budget
- Evaluate the outcome
Develop a budget that matches need
Social care as a statutory responsibility will take up an increasing proportion of a shrinking budget for every local authority, and so the gains from even marginal savings will therefore be highly significant for each city’s balance sheet. In Greater Manchester, social care spending is disproportionately high in areas such as early years and mental health (as identified by the ‘Healthier Together’ review).
Use other powers to raise the social care budget
Exclusively, Greater Manchester’s devolution deal includes considerable powers and funding over health and social care, including the £6 billion budget. Typically, waste in health and social care spending has been at least partially blamed on ‘silo’ funding – i.e. a mis-match in funding pots, geographies and departments meaning that future savings from investments have not been realised by those departments or decision-makers responsible for them.
The metro mayor has the powers to raise council tax across the local authorities in order to meet the strategic needs of the city-region. This can be pooled across local authorities, allowing it to be spent more efficiently.
Alongside this, the mayor will have the profile and informal powers to call on the Government to devolve the powers to set council tax bands in the city-region. By accepting this political risk, the mayor could then set new council tax bands to fund improvements in social care across the city-region, spreading the cost across local authority areas. A more efficient system should incentivise the same body that takes the risks and costs with the benefits these changes make.
Evaluate the policy and improve it
Greater Manchester will have the chance to experiment with this feedback loop to find effective outcomes and can use the council tax precept to fund such changes.
To ensure resources are allocated most efficiently, the metro mayor should put in place an effective evaluation system that includes a control group and sets specific goals, and allows for failure as well as success. This will be key to finding the best outcomes and will make best use of scarce resources for what is a priority across the city.