Somerset County Council is calling for ‘collective pressure on Government’ as it wrestles with the impacts of falling funding and increasing costs.
Leader of the council, Councillor John Osman, will be writing to the Prime Minister this week setting out the huge pressures facing the authority as it looks to reduce significant projected in-year overspends.
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Harvey Siggs, has also joined colleagues from across the South West lobbying the region’s MPs to make clear the impact that falling funding is having on local authorities.
Today Somerset’s Cabinet discussed the Council’s first quarter financial report which forecasts an in-year overspend of £24m – if the current rates of spending continued for the rest of the year.
The biggest projected overspends are in Adult Social Care (£12.8m) where demand for increasingly expensive support continues to rise, and Children’s Services (£9.5m) where use of agency staff to reduce workloads and improve performance have added significantly to spending.
“We must remember that these are projected, not actual overspends,” said Cllr Osman. “We have a comprehensive plan to bring them down but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a serious situation.
“Over the last five years we have had to make savings of around £100m. We are not alone in having these sorts of pressures. Together with other local authorities we need to exert strong and collective pressure on the Government, making it clear that this cannot continue without having an impact on what we are able to do for our residents.
“Sadly, we can no longer provider all the things that we would want to provide. We have to focus on critical services to the vulnerable and have to think very hard about spending on anything beyond that.”
Earlier this month, County Council managers were told it is essential that in-year spending is brought down. Actions include a continued spending freeze and tighter controls on recruitment and the use of agency staff.
On top of the savings it has had to make so far, the Council expects to lose a further £40m of direct government funding by 2020/2021. Meanwhile, costs increase, for example over the last three years we have had to spend an extra our £8m supporting vulnerable adults.