Budget underspend forecast by council despite areas of particular pressure

Northumberland County Council is forecasting a £1.25million underspend on its budget this financial year, but there are particular pressures in adult social care and children's services.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 10:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 11:00 am
Northumberland County Council

A 2018-19 financial performance update was presented to the authority’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday (December 11).

The report said: ‘In overall terms, financial progress towards delivery of the 2018-19 agreed savings targets is positive.

‘However, there continue to be challenges in some areas, which, if not addressed, could impact on the medium-term planning position.’

It adds that progress towards dealing with the £8.2million gap is ‘in the main positive’, with £6.9million of savings either fully realised or good progress being made, but there is work needed to ensure the remaining £1.3million can be delivered.

Coun Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “We are facing constant budget pressures and that’s particularly true in adult and children’s services.”

As at the end of October, children’s services is predicting a £2.8million overspend for the year, despite the injection of £3million extra funding in the 2018-19 budget.

A large part of this is down to out-of-county residential placements, with the budget for this expected to overspend by more than £2million.

Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Out-of-county placements are incredibly expensive, but this is vital care and support so that’s why we need to have more placements in the county. This has been sadly neglected for many, many years.”

Adult wellbeing and health is actually forecasting a £0.6million underspend for the year, however, this masks the fact that external social care is due to overspend by £3.8million and that this is partly offset by underspend elsewhere, such as vacant staff posts.

Plus, extra winter pressures grant funding of £1.5million has recently been announced, of which £1million is being used to offset the existing pressures.

Elsewhere, the picture is rosier, however, with an underspend of almost £2million predicted for environment and local services, for example.

The cabinet member for this portfolio, Coun Glen Sanderson, said: “I wouldn’t want people to think we hadn’t spent money we could have done; this was additional income from an exciting project which has taken off – converting some of our waste into electricity.”

He added: “We should acknowledge the work of staff in keeping to budgets and showing discipline.”

Coun John Riddle added: “We are improving things within the county at a time when we are facing cuts. Work is still going ahead at great pace and I think the public are recognising that they are getting even better value for money.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service