Councillors have impressed the need to directors the need to keep a forensic eye on the purse strings.
Calderdale Council is just one of lots of local authorities up and down the country struggling to balance the budget against a background of austerity, operating on £114 million less than in 2010.
This week the council’s Cabinet acknowleged actions being taken by service directors to start addressing projected service overpends this year and into the future – and members also agreed to remind directors of the need to manage service deivery within budgets.
Cabinet members themselves also needed to be aware of the situation, they agreed.
So far this year Adults Services and Wellbeing is expected to overspend by £2.6 million, offset by £1.8 million from a previously approved use of reserves, Children’s and Young People’s Services is expected to overspend by £800,000 (£100,000 less after some use of reserves), Public Services is expected to overspend by £800,000 (£200,000 after use of reserves and management action) and Regeneration and Strategy is likely to overspend by £1 million (£200,000 after more cash used from reserves), according to the report to councillors.
The Chief Executive’s Office, which includes services like public health, is expected to met budget by the end of the year.
Some elements, such as Adult Social Care, are a statutory requirement the council has to meet and, as it affects vulnerable citizens, would wish to meet.
And some budgets are literally at the mercy of the elements – a cold winter would put the winter budget under severe strain.
But with the council’s balances close to the recommended lowest levels, and scope for using reserves limited, in the long term other solutions are likely to have to be found.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Resources, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot), said the first revenue monitoring figures of the year had been presented to council in July and main pressures were all-age disability requirements and external placements for looked after children.
This was an interim report ahead of the second set of monitoring figures to assess the situation.
There was a timeline for some of the actions taken by directors to make an impact.
When they took effect councillors would be better able to see how they had done in terms of solving these pressures, said Coun Scullion.
There was a caveat that the council was committed to protecting the level of reserves.
“We have seen what has happened when councils have raided their reserves and it is not a pretty sight,” said Coun Scullion.
Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town), Cabinet member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said there were increasing challenges locally and nationally where adult social care was concerned, with increased demand at a time of austerity – difficult choices lay ahead.
Adult social care nationally was in a state of crisis and it needed substantial funding now.
Coun Metcalfe said he had been briefed on what the second monitor report was likely to say about adult social care costs and it was gong to make things even more difficult and challenging.