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Social care slips down the local election agenda

It's one of local government's biggest responsibilities, yet dialogue around the May 2018 local elections was strangely silent on social care

The outcome of the local elections held on 3rd May has been something of a mixed bag, with no dramatic overall shift in the landscape for either of the main parties. In the run up to the elections, and in media commentary since, the subject of social care has generally been notable by its absence.

This might come as something of a surprise, given the increasing burden which social care is placing on local authority budgets. Funding for social care is very much a live issue, and one which will be of increasing importance as local authorities move to a position where they are entirely reliant on their own fund-raising powers to meet their responsibilities.

Perhaps it is a sense of helplessness which has kept the subject off the agenda. If the respective parties feel that they have no solution to the problem of care funding at a local level, then it may have seemed that that the easier option was simply not to raise the subject at all. Instead, commentary around these elections seems to have been oddly polarised. On one hand, campaigning, such as there has been, seems to have focused largely on prosaic matters such as potholes and traffic, whilst on the other, media commentary has assessed the outcome in the context of national issues, with a focus on party politics and leadership styles. In truth, many voters may have supported relatively unknown candidates based only on meagre provision of policy information at local level, and a heavy influence of media coverage at national level.

It seems a shame that there is not more focus and debate on matters which are of such significance to local government and which directly impact on local taxation. It is accepted that the Green Paper on social care is unlikely to offer an immediate solution to the funding crisis, but perhaps an additional challenge is how to encourage both the public and politicians to engage in greater debate and discourse around matters which affect us all at local level.

Ian Wilkie
4th May 2018