Northamptonshire had biggest rise in elderly of any county council area - but independent body says Whitehall funding fails to recognise it

The CCN statement chimes with the views of county hall that an urgent review of the Government funding model - based on populations in 2013 - needs to take place
The CCN statement chimes with the views of county hall that an urgent review of the Government funding model - based on populations in 2013 - needs to take place

The number of elderly people in county local authority areas has risen by half a million in just three years alone.

County Council Network - an independent body of council leaders - now says it agrees with Northamptonshire County Council that this population boom is creating ‘unprecedented’ pressure on local services due to ‘outdated’ government funding.

They revealed that, between 2013 and 2016, the over 65s population has swelled in rural county areas by 485,648 with Northamptonshire seeing the highest percentage increase of 12.5%.

Although a 'fair funding review' championed by the county council will take place in 2020, CCN warned it has to address the £2bn shortfall for growing counties that are hamstrung by an outdated model of funding that was 'frozen' in 2013.

Councillor Colin Noble, health & social care spokesman for the County Councils Network, and leader of Suffolk County Council, said:

“We are dealing with an elderly population boom on an unprecedented scale, creating significant pressure at a time when we can scarcely afford it, with counties facing severe financial difficultly that threatens existence of highly-valued public services and means we have to reluctantly consider charging for other life-critical services.

“Of course, people living healthier and longer, not to mention choosing to live in our historic counties, should be celebrated. But this growth – and therefore extra demand - is not reflected in the way that our councils are presently funded. This is outdated, unfair, and unsustainable in the long-term.​

“Fortunately, the government recognises this. We want to work with Ministers on the fairer funding review to devise a new methodology and new ways that sustainably funds councils based on what they need to deliver services. Elderly population growth should be a key indicator in this.

"At the same time, if social care services are to become sustainable, the forthcoming green paper must set out a variety of options to fund services, including tax, spend, and insurance options.”

Dan Bates, from Pixel Financial Management, who helped collate the data, said: “Population data, the most significant driver in funding formulae, won’t have been updated for seven years by the time the local government funding is recalculated in 2020/21.

“Over this same period, there have been significant demographic shifts particularly in respect of older people which have not been fed through to local authority funding allocations.

“Looking forward, a fair funding system needs to be sufficiently dynamic to reflect changing population patterns so that increasingly limited resources are targeted according to needs.”

Cllr Robin Brown, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for finance, said: “These figures from the County Councils Network, which show that Northamptonshire has seen the biggest increase in the over 65s population in the country, demonstrate the unprecedented demand for our social care services and the impact this is having on our budget.

“We are making the very best possible use of our resources to support people over 65 but the reality is we simply cannot continue to meet this level of demand for services with the reducing amount of funding we receive from central government.

“I am grateful to the CCN for highlighting this critical issue for us and other local authorities and hope this message will be heard loud and clear by the Government.”

Top five counties facing elderly population boom

Northamptonshire – 12.5% (against a total population increase of 3.2%)

East Sussex – 11.9% (against a total population increase of 2.5%)

Cheshire East – 11.8% (against a total population increase of 0.6%)

North Yorkshire – 11.7% (against a total population increase of -0.11%)

Worcestershire – 11.6% (against a total population increase of 2%)