Doncaster Council is set to spend the cash generated by a council tax levy – intended for adult social care services – on covering a national living wage bill instead.
The local authority is proposing to use the £1.7 million brought in by a two per cent levy on council tax, as mandated by central government, on covering the additional amount it will have to pay in wages after the NLW’s introduction this year.
Speaking at an overview and scrutiny meeting yesterday, assistant finance director Steve Mawson confirmed the council would be forced to pay out an additional £2.9m to cover the annual cost of paying every worker the NLW of £6.70 an hour.
When the Government introduced a mandatory council tax rise that is set to be imposed by every local authority in the country, they stipulated the additional money must be spent on adult social care.
Councillors on the overview and scrutiny panel therefore raised concerns over spending the additional money on wage costs – as they said they were unsure how this could fall under the remit of adult social care services.
Coun Craig Sahmen told the meeting: “I’m worried that by doing this we would be misleading the public.”
Committee chair, Coun John Mounsey added: “I don’t know how we could explain to members of the public that by spending it on wages we are providing better adult social care services.”
Mr Mawson responded by saying that 99 per cent of the people who did not already receive a wage of £6.70 an hour were those working in the adult social care sector.
He said: “We will make sure that this money does not line the pockets of business owners, and that it does go into the pockets of workers.
“We will make sure we get more bang for our buck, and that in return we get a better service.”
Coun Jane Cox questioned whether the council could instead pass the additional NLW costs on to the private sector care providers. Mr Mawson said this would not be possible, due to the council outsourcing its care services to the private sector, but added that they would work closely to secure a ‘fair deal’.
The local authority is hoping to increase council tax by 3.9 per cent in April – comprised of the two per cent Government levy and its own 1.9 per cent rise.
The proposals will be voted on at a full council meeting on March 1.
The NLW is said to support the government’s vision for a higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax society.