Councils could release more than £300 million for the care of the elderly if they cut the cost of social care assessments and reviews, a public spending watchdog has found.
The Audit Commission has calculated that local authorities in England could save up to £312 million a year if they reduced their assessment costs to the level of the most efficient councils.
It said its analysis showed that low-cost councils achieved broadly the same levels of service quality as high-cost councils, suggesting savings were possible without putting vulnerable people at risk.
Commission managing director Andy McKeon said: "Assessments and reviews are a crucial element of social care, enabling individuals' needs to be properly identified and met.
"However, our evidence suggests that councils can spend less and still do an excellent job in helping people receive the care that they need.
"As councils struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population with less cash, any opportunity to save money and redirect it into care should be pursued enthusiastically."