COUNCIL tax is set to rise by almost four per cent next year to plug a £23 million gap in funding caused by the ever-increasing cost of social care.

The 3.99 per cent rise - the equivalent of 93p a week extra on a band D property - announced by Worcestershire County Council yesterday includes one per cent of ring-fenced money to pay for adult social care.

The county council has said it would spend almost £22 million more on social care next year.

The increased spending comes after almost £18 million extra was spent on children and adult’s services this year.

To balance its budget for next year, the county council has proposed saving £3 million by a complete reshaping of the authority, a further £3 million from waste management contract renegotiations and other measures including cutting agency staff over Christmas and renegotiating how it pays off its debts.

Around £200,000 of the £1 million required savings from the council’s library budget would be cut next year.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the county council, said that whilst Worcestershire has one of the fastest growing economies in the country - the council’s budget is set to rise by more than £6 million to £330 million next year - the increasing cost of caring for the county’s most vulnerable children and adults is not matching the pace of growth.

He said: “These are challenging financial times for all councils who have responsibility for caring for the most vulnerable in our society.”

“We are growing the Worcestershire economy and new homes and businesses are helping to boost our income. However, we are facing pressures due to the increase in demand for social care.

“There is a growing consensus around the need for a national funding solution for adult social care and we await the government’s green paper. In the meantime this council proposes have to re-prioritise resources to meet those needs.”

“The budget that we are proposing includes significant investments into adult social care and into improving the lives of the county’s children and young people.

“We also intend to continue to support measures to grow the local economy, improve our infrastructure to tackle congestion and redesign this organisation to ensure that we live within our means.”

The council also announced that £50 million would be made available in capital investment - money for long-term projects - to support growth and regeneration over the next three years.

The draft budget will be discussed by the council’s cabinet at a meeting next Thursday (December 13).