PTG: Funding hasn't gone away (UK)

A conversation with a manager of a telecare service this week reminded me that although the English Preventative Technology Grant (PTG) has finished, its funding has not. The money associated with the grant is still there, in councils’ baseline funding, year-on-year. Telecare services could therefore be benefiting from it still. If they are not, councils are spending it on something else.

The PTG, designed to help English councils with social services responsibility to introduce telecare, was available in two stages over financial years 2006 to 2008, with carry-over on unspent funding possible until 2009. PTG source document.

The PTG was a ‘specific formula grant’. That means it was not a one-off, ring fenced grant of additional money, but an identified part of the uplift to councils’ baseline funding that they would have received anyway. Specific formula grants were a Government sleight-of-hand introduced in the Local Government Act 2003 which enable it to have its cake and eat it: to give councils what they were going to get anyway but to ‘tell’ them how to use it, with the caveat that they are actually able to spend the funding on the purpose of the grant or not… as many hopeful telecare managers found when they were pitched into arguments with their council finance officers. (Extract from the notes to the 2003 Act, below.)

In April 2006, £30 million of the councils’ baseline funding uplift, identified to the PTG was introduced, and a further £50 million came April 2007. That £80 million, apportioned to each council using the relative share of older people’s relative needs formulae, has been there in baseline funding ever since and will be into the indefinite future.

From the notes to the Local Government Act 2003

Sections 31 to 33: Expenditure grant
51. This new wide-ranging power will enable any Minister to make a grant for any purpose, capital or revenue, to any local authority… The power should largely eliminate the need in future legislation for any further specific grant-making powers. It is designed to allow authorities more flexibility in the use of resources than some existing specific powers, which constrain their use.