Calderdale Council is expecting an overspend by the end of the council year 2018-19 next April.
Cabinet member for Resources, Performance and Business Change, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) reported to members that of the council’s directorates, the Chief Executive’s office was facing budget pressures but forecasted a balanced budget by year end, Regeneration and Strategy the same.
But Adults and Children’s Services forecast a £1.5 million overspend, following a £2.1 million one-off funding of unallocated reserves and management action being taken to support its base budget spend.
In all £75.6 million is budgeted for those services but costs for them are expected to reach £77.1 million.
The main reasons for the overspend are underachieved Budget Council savings in the sector (£1.71 million), external placements for children (£1.28 million), the cost of children’s social work teams (£85,000) and service pressures within adult services and all age disability (£500,000).
In terms of the savings not achieved, the directorate is taking action to see where compensatory savings can be made to offset the target.
Where the external placements for children shortfall is concerned, Calderdale was not alone in facing cost pressures said Coun Scullion, the issue being that although the number of the council’s looked-after children has fallen, the cost of supporting them and the number of children with complex needs requiring high levels of support has increased.
She explained that the total placement budget was £12 million, used for less than 300 children – but of that £2.2 million was required to be spent on the needs of just 16 children.
These were weekly external placement costs of between £2,100 and £4,700 for each of those 16 children, and for 13 of them the cost was more than £3,000 each per week.
Throughout the country there was an insufficient number of such places for extremely vulnerable children available, said Coun Scullion.
Shortage of foster carers also meant the service still had to rely on some use of external placements.
Councillor Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said the difficulty as she understood it was the cost of using private fostering agencies, with the council not in a position to do anything other than the best for those children.
Calderdale had made strenuous efforts to recruit foster carers and hoped to continue recruiting people to look after children in Calderdale, helping to bring down the spend. “We will be redoubling our efforts,” she said.
And Public Services is expected to overspend by £656,000, the major pressures being sport and library income.
In all, predicted overspends are £4.3 million but service directors have already identified additional measures they can take which will reduce this to a £2.2 million overspend by April 2019.
As well as noting and commenting on the report and actions already underway, Cabinet asked directors to report in more detail reasons for major variances in forecasts compared to the budget to the council’s Strategy and Performance Scrutiny Board, and also to submit a report to the next meeting of Cabinet on action being taken to address forecast directorate overspends in the current year.