SOCIAL care for the town’s most vulnerable residents - already ‘stretched to its breaking point’ having been ravaged by years of cuts - could have another £4.5m slashed from its budget, it has been warned.

Under a review of the funding formula for local authorities, £320m a year could be shifted out of metropolitan councils in England’s most deprived areas while Tory-controlled county councils - mainly in the south-east - gain £300m, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Barnsley’s potential reduction is equivalent to a 6.4 per cent cut but the town fares better than Sheffield (£13.3m), Rotherham (£6m) and Doncaster (£5m).

“The government’s proposed new formula, a result of the so-called fair funding review, is anything but fair,”

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said. “The most deprived areas have been hit hardest by a decade of austerity, causing a worsening social care crisis.

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“Now we’re facing fresh cuts with services already stretched to breaking point. Barnsley will lose £4.5m, which is a 6.4 per cent reduction.

“Local authorities such as Barnsley’s are still in the dark about funding for next year and with just two months until the start of the next financial year, the government is making it hard to plan for the vital services people need.”

The fair funding review - which will affect how cash is allocated and redistributed from April - was brought up at a recent councillors’ scrutiny meeting where concerns were expressed over its knock-on effects locally.

Barnsley Council dedicates the largest share of its budget to social care - about 60 per cent - but stretched resources elsewhere are making this harder to sustain, according to the local authority, despite a planned 3.9 per cent council tax hike set to be formally approved later this month.

Cabinet members supported the increase on Wednesday - which includes ringfencing 1.9 per cent for adult social care - but the latest setback has been condemned by leaders in the town.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the Chronicle: “Obviously we’re against this should it go ahead but it’s also important to say that nothing has been finalised yet, so we don’t actually know what next year’s picture will look like.

“Giving more money to county councils to the detriment of metropolitans, of which we’re one, isn’t fair and we’ll do all we can to put those views forward.

“We’ve got our defences in order for 2020/21, so whatever happens from the government’s point of view will take hold from 2021/22. I back John’s campaign but we need to fight to make sure social care isn’t hit again as it’s a vital service.”

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis described the care sector’s plight as a ‘national crisis’.

“Increasing council tax in order to fund social care may help the situation in some areas, but it also risks creating a postcode lottery where the wealthier local authorities can offer a higher standard of care.

“The funding system remains fundamentally unsustainable. We need to have a proper debate about how we are going to fund social care in the long-term.

“We have an ageing population, and the challenges which it presents are only going to get more severe over time.

“We urgently need to develop a social care system that is built along the same lines as our NHS.

“That means a system that is free at the point of use and does not penalise users on the basis of their ability to pay.”