Devon facing £7 million overspend

Devon County Council is facing a £7 million overspend this financial year according to its latest forecast.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Adult and children’s services are projected to have the biggest overspends with a warning that “significant pressures are being experienced” in both departments and the situation “will need to be monitored closely in the coming months.”

The month-six budget report, presented to the council’s ruling cabinet, said more people with learning disabilities and autism are being cared for than originally expected, while more older people need nursing placements than forecast too.

In addition, more children are being placed with independent foster carers than predicted and shortages in the workforce are leading to higher costs for agency staff.

Councillor Phil Twiss (Conservative, Feniton & Honiton), cabinet member for finance, said the council’s position is “far from unique in England” and largely reflects the impact of covid.  He noted the overspend was slightly lower than the previous month-four prediction of £7.3 million.

Devon has this year received pandemic-related grants totalling more than £36 million, as well as carrying over funding from last year of £26 million.

However, the report warned that “the ever-changing landscape we are faced with continues to present service delivery challenges and financial risks.”

Despite overspends in adult and children’s services totalling more than £12 million, underspends in some other departments have helped reduce the overall predicted deficit to £7 million.

A predicted £36 million overspend on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) this year is outside the forecast because the government has told local authorities to allocate it to a separate ring-fenced account until April 2023.

However, combined with previous years’ totals, the overall SEND overspend is expected to be £85 million by the end of 2021/22, and councillors expressed concern about what will happen to it when the ring-fencing arrangement ends.

County treasurer Angie Sinclair told them: “There is still no indication from government on what will happen at the end of that three-year period” but she added the council could soon join a “hybrid” scheme with the government containing more support.

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