Devon County Council faces £28million budget shortfall, prompting fears among councillors

PUBLISHED: 10:16 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34 13 September 2019

Devon County Council's county hall. Picture: Daniel Clark

Devon County Council's county hall. Picture: Daniel Clark

Daniel Clark

Devon county councillors have hit out at the Government for short-changing the county which is now facing a £28million budget shortfall.

They slammed Whitehall for the under-funding that was leading to massive overspends being forecast in social care, adult care and health services and children's services.

Wednesday's (September 11) Devon County Council cabinet meeting heard that the total projected overspend at month four for 2019/20 was £4.3million.

A planned £8million contribution to reserves is set to be dropped and there is a funding shortfall of £15.8m for special educational needs that will not be dealt with this year.

Mary Davis, the county treasurer, said: "This would allow the deficit to be managed across several years and give time for service managers and schools to develop recovery plans. It would also give time for Government, if it was so minded, to review this area and put funding streams on a more sustainable footing."

A number of savings initiatives, proposed to try to mitigate pressures, are currently under review.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour Group, said the overspending was a concern, particularly in SEND and mental health were the demand is going on.

Cllr Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent Group, said he hated the term 'overspend' in areas such as children's social care, as the council is not overspending but simply tackling the need.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: "Devon continues to be short changed by the government. We have been campaigning for years and government is simply not listening. They cannot go on short changing the county and its children.

"The solution seems to be put the overdraft on the council credit card and pay it off another day if they win the Government's grants lottery. I hope you are right and that for we get the money to pay it off."

The Conservative leader of the council, John Hart, said: "Nearly every council in the country is faced with huge extra costs for both children and adult care. We're doing what any prudent administration would do. We are managing the situation.

"For example our special needs costs are rising so much because we have to place children in expensive private schools."

The council has opened a new special school in Tiverton and is planning another for Teignbridge.

The cabinet noted the report and an update will be prepared for the November cabinet meeting.

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