11:35AM, Tuesday 24 September 2019
The state of the Royal Borough’s finances has been criticised after a council document revealed it is projected to be millions of pounds over budget.
Huge costs in adult social care and children’s services, combined with £490,000 less in parking income, means the borough is set to overspend by £4,179,000.
The projection is a huge increase from August, when the borough was only set to go £451,000 over budget.
A council document, sent to the Royal Borough’s cabinet ahead of its Thursday meeting, said: “The projected overspends in children’s and adult services are mirrored to some extent with the picture nationally and the need for sustainable funding regimes for these services is recognised by Government.
“If the service pressures are not addressed in 2019/20 they will continue into future years and will have an impact on the council’s medium term financial planning assumptions, requiring further savings to be identified and delivered.”
It adds: “If the overspend is not reduced general fund reserves would reduce to £6,029,000, marginally above the minimum level set at Council of £5,810,000 (6.26 per cent of net budget) in February 2019.”
Adult services is £1,430,000 over budget, driven by factors including an increase in placements for adults with a learning disability, increased support costs for adults with mental health issues and rises in nursing placements.
Children’s services spending is £1,421,000 over budget due in part to issues including increased costs for young people’s placements and incremental cost for interim staff employed to deal with higher caseloads.
Parking income – received from parking fees and penalty notices – is £400,000 lower than expected while £76,000 in property costs was spent on the Hines Meadow car park and £14,000 was spent operating the car parks.
Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said: “I am really worried. I think it is one of those times where the Conservatives need to keep stop getting into their bunker and start working with the Liberal Democrats and the opposition to make things happen.”
He said a cross-party initiative could allow the council to properly identify achievable savings to improve its finances.
Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor), the leader of the Local Independents group, said on Twitter: “For the second year running we get to September and suddenly find that RBWM has a huge overspend.
“£461,000 in August rising to £4,179,000 in Sept.
“Where are the checks? Why were members not told of this before now.
“This is not just demand but unviable ‘savings’ targets.”
Cllr Hilton (Con, Ascot and Sunninghill), the cabinet member for finance, was contacted for comment this morning.
Update 4.45pm: A council spokeswoman said: “Like many local authorities we are experiencing some in-year financial pressures, particularly in the providing care to vulnerable children and adults.
"We are working to reduce these pressures but these are statutory, demand led services that we have no choice over providing.
"We will always do what is needed to protect vulnerable people, which is our priority, and will continue to work with central Government to highlight funding in these areas.
“The council is working on reducing spend across all of its functions to resolve these pressures to bring our year-end finances closer to the agreed budget.”
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