Dorset Council £14.7M in the red

Dorset Council £14.7M in the red

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:36am 30th October 2019.

Dorset Council’s projected overspend has shot up again – by another £2million.

The end of the financial year projection now stands at £14.7million in the red – despite claims at the start of the new authority that by doing away with six council it would result in savings.

Dorset Council also has one of the highest council tax bills in the country – more than even the most expensive inner London boroughs.

council tax calculator

A report to the Tory-controlled Cabinet next week says that at the end of the council’s first three months the forecast overspend for the end of the financial year was of £7.1m for council revenue budgets and £5.5m for the schools’ budget.  This has now deteriorated to £8.2m and £6.5m respectively.

At the time when the previous poor figures were reported deputy council leader Peter Wharf issued a ‘keep calm and carry on message.’ He said that, at worst, could use reserve funds to bail itself out but would continue to strive for savings and more efficient working.

The cabinet meeting on 5th November is now being told that the level of overspend represents a financial risk on the medium term – rated as ‘high’.

pound coins

'Plans to make savings'

But councillors will hear that the shedding of staff has not yet finished and could yet account for more savings; that the social services review, currently underway, should maintain staffing levels, improve services and still save £1million a year; and that the council has not, as yet, concluded its review of the properties it owns, which may also result in as yet, unspecified, additional income.

Other reviews are also underway, including how the council buys goods and services, which may also result in savings.

'Which areas are putting the biggest pressure in budgets?'

The biggest overspend of all is attributed to children’s service which accounts for a possible £8.6million overspend at the end of the year, more than 13 per cent above budget. Despite hopes than the number of children looked after by the council would go down – they have actually increased by 31 and now stand at 444 in total.

child special needs

Spending on adult social care is also up, for similar reasons. It is forecast to be overspent by £208,000, mainly on staffing costs with an additional £604,000 overspend on commissioning items which help people stay in their homes for longer, and other services.

Both social services and the payments for children of school age with additional needs are demand-led, making it difficult for the authority to predict accurately its spending in these areas. The problems has been compounded by Government support for the council not keeping up with demand.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter