Barnet Council plans to use “demand management” to cut its adult social care bill amid “significant” reductions in funding and a growing need for services.

The town hall’s adults and safeguarding committee aims to save £3.4 million over the next three years as the council looks to close a total budget gap of £56.5 million.

It plans to constrain costs for residential and nursing care and increase independence among those using support services. The savings proposals are described as “demand management” in a report that was presented to the committee on Wednesday. 

The report reveals the number of older adults supported by the council is increasing year-on-year, with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating pressure resulting from an ageing population.

At the same time, local government “continues to face significant reductions in funding”, the report adds. According to the Local Government Association, adult social care costs increased by £8.5 billion during the past decade, while total funding only increased by £2.4 billion.

The report also notes that there are “significant pressures on social care providers, with staff shortages, rising wage costs and inflation”.

On top of the care savings, the council plans to bring in more cash by increasing fees for some of the leisure services it offers, such as swimming and fitness classes.

Speaking during the meeting, Cllr Paul Edwards, Labour’s spokesperson on adult social care, said the report made for “grim reading” and criticised the Government for failing to provide enough funding.

He said: “I am not sure if the Government is seriously proposing we can continue to go on as we have been doing for years, because it is not really a realistic option. Our officers can only work with what they are given, and they are not going to be given the resources they need over the years that are coming.”

Committee chair Cllr Sachin Rajput, a Conservative, said the council needed to “look at all avenues of funding, including central government” but also continue working to ensure people stay healthy and independent.

Cllr Sarah Wardle, another Conservative member, added: “In terms of the things we the council can control, I think we are doing an enormously good job in mitigating what we can and then we will do what we can elsewhere to lobby the government for where we need further funding arrangements.”

Conservative councillors voted in favour of the savings proposals. Labour and Liberal Democrat committee members abstained.