Pressure on children's services pushes Devon County Council's budget into overspend.

east devon

Devon County Hall on Topsham Road, Exeter - Credit: LDRS

Devon County Council is forecasting a budget overspend of £8.3 million this year.

The projection, to be presented to the council’s ruling cabinet next week, is over a million pounds worse than the previous estimate from November.

Director of Finance Angie Sinclair said while the cost pressures in adult care and health have stablised, with a slightly lower overspend of £5 million, the children’s services overspend has increased by a further £1.8 million to £9 million (25 per cent).

Ms Sinclair has warned that 'close monitoring will continue, and action taken where possible'.

Despite significantly more money being spent in adult and children’s services than budgeted, underspends in some other departments have helped reduce the overall predicted deficit to £8.3 million.

The projections for the current financial year come after the county council backed a target budget for next year that would see total spending rise by 8.4 per cent, with a combined extra £30 million for the under-pressure children’s and adult areas.

The Conservative-run authority wants to spend £629 million in 2022/23, up from £580 million this year, but the final budget won’t be approved until February.

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Part of that will be funded by central government, with a provisional one-year settlement with local authorities announced just before Christmas.

The report to cabinet says it is 'very close to what was expected, and no change is therefore proposed to the budget targets for 2022/23 that was agreed by cabinet in December'.

However, it went on to warn: “Although the provisional settlement represents an increase to the authority’s funding next year, it is not sufficient to meet the demand and cost pressures being faced by the authority. The authority will have no choice but to make savings in order to balance its budget.”

Cabinet member for finance Phil Twiss (Conservative, Feniton) said the council proposes to use 'quite a hefty chunk of our reserves' to invest in adult and children’s services.

He explained it would 'support time-limited pressures, with invest to save programmes and to provide these critical services with breathing space to manage demand and transform further…'

But Cllr Twiss added: “These reserves, which are currently healthy, can only be spent once of course. We cannot become reliant on them to support core service delivery.”

The cabinet and opposition leaders will discuss the figures at a meeting on Wednesday [12 January].

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