Dementia tax plan ‘drawn up in Cabinet Office and hidden from key ministers’

Written by Emilio Casalicchio and Richard Johnstone on 16 June 2017 in News

Manifesto proposal developed by former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer was kept from local government and health cabinet ministers until less than 24 hours before launch

Photo: Fotolia

The cabinet ministers responsible for social care were kept in the dark about the so-called ‘dementia tax’ until the day before it was announced, it has been reported.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid and health secretary Jeremy Hunt were informed of the centrepiece Tory manifesto pledge less than 24 hours before the document was launched, BBC Newsnight said.


Conservative MP George Freeman, Theresa May’s former top policy adviser, branded the Conservative campaign a “catastrophe”.

According to the plan set out in the manifesto, payment for residential or at-home social care would come from people’s estates until they were down to their last £100,000 in assets.

But it was met with anger among Tory target voters on the doorstep and Theresa May was forced into a humiliating U-turn - announcing care bills would be capped.

According to BBC Newsnight the policy was drawn up in the Cabinet Office instead of in the Department of Health or the Department for Communities and Local Government, which have responsibility for the legal framework for the care sector and for local authority funding of provision respectively.

Former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer – who had a big hand in penning the Tory manifesto before losing his seat in the election – had been working on a green paper set for publication for later in the year which contained the care plan.

Other areas of the manifesto saw consultation with Cabinet ministers, but they only got sight of the full document shortly before its launch and just 20 minutes before the press did.

George Freeman – who chairs the prime minister’s policy board – told Newsnight: "This was a catastrophe of a campaign and I wouldn't expect necessarily in a snap election it gets signed off by cabinet and it goes through a series of negotiations presumably and discussions.

"So I wouldn't expect to be holding the pen on the last draft. But I didn't see any draft. And I think there was a culture in the campaign of 'we the five or six of us are going to do this'."

About the author

Emilio Casalicchio is a reporter at PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared. Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @RichRJohnstone

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