Sajid Javid is open to supporting a tax rise to pay for major social care reform, according to allies, as he joined the Treasury in a push to find a “sustainable” funding solution.
The new Health Secretary will play a critical role in brokering an end to the stand-off between Number 10 and Number 11 over funding to tackle the adult social care crisis.
Mr Javid is a “problem-solver” without an “ego” who has the experience in both the Treasury and other government departments to craft a compromise, according to former colleagues.
He once helped drive through the social care precept when Communities Secretary, which allowed a two per cent rise to council tax bills to cover care costs, showing an openness to such moves.
Mr Javid also used his first statement to the House of Commons in his new role this week to call for “a long-lasting, sustainable solution to the social care challenge that this country faces”.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told the nation he had a “clear plan” for reforming social care on the steps of Downing Street when he became Prime Minister in July 2019.
Yet two years on, Cabinet ministers are still only at the early stages of mapping out a solution for elderly people who face crippling bills to pay for care in old age.
How social care reform has been pushed back again… and again
The Telegraph understands a crunch meeting took place on social care reform between Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and Matt Hancock, then Health Secretary, last Thursday.
But officials in all three departments insist a breakthrough is not imminent, despite the promise made by ministers to announce plans before the end of the year.
Reforms proposed a decade ago by Sir Andrew Dilnot, which would cap lifetime care costs and raise the threshold for when the state steps in to help, remain Mr Johnson’s preference.
Yet there is frustration in parts of the Treasury at Number 10 for repeatedly pushing back proposals to cover the cost – said to be as much as £10 billion – with new tax rises.
A Treasury source told this newspaper: "Number 10 realises there needs to be a financial solution. They begin to explore it but once they get to the fence they walk back down the path and don’t want to do it. So basically it never gets to the resolution stage.
“The cost of it is deemed too high. This is the problem the PM has. He doesn’t want to make enemies or do anything that is not popular. He doesn’t want to take the political pain.”
Mr Javid was appointed Health Secretary last weekend when Mr Hancock resigned after being caught having an affair with an aide and breaking social distancing rules.
One former colleague of Mr Javid’s who has worked closely with him on policy issues predicted that he could broker a compromise between Number 10 and 11 on social care.
“He’s a team player. He’s not a conciliator but he knows how to find a way through,” the source told The Telegraph.
“He’s a problem solver. There are too few of those people in the Government. Everyone wants their pomp and celebration. He has got a policy brain. That is what health needs right now. He is not an ego.”
A second ally of Mr Javid said of his relationship with Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak: “He’s someone who is trusted by both those senior people in government. It might be quite helpful for bringing those different perspectives together.”
It is understood the so-called Japanese model, which would see everyone aged over 40 pay a contribution to their future social care, has been ruled out by the Treasury as it does not raise enough money for the scale of reforms being planned.
Moves to raise taxes could face a backlash from Tory backbenchers, who have called for the overall tax burden to fall in the coming years as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Health Department source played down speculation Mr Javid backs a tax rise, stressing he had only spent a week in the job and would carefully consider social care reform plans.