Council discusses a ‘steady as we go strategy’ in response to projected overspend

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Posted on: 10 November 2016

Devon County Councillors discussed a ‘steady as we go’ strategy in response to a projected budget overspend for 2016/17 at its meeting yesterday (Wednesday 9 November).

Based on the first 6 months of this financial year, the Council predicts an overspend by £7.5 million by the end of March 2017 if steps are not taken between now and then to address the matter.

But the Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr John Clatworthy is confident that the Council’s record of spending within its budget would remain unblemished.

Steps, such as a jobs freeze on all but frontline posts, like social workers and care staff, and embargos on spending, could be introduced if necessary to reduce any overspend.

Projections of an overspend earlier in the year have already been reduced through cost-saving measures.

The range of possible measures was discussed by Devon’s Cabinet after considering a report by county treasurer Mary Davis on spending in the first six months of the 2016/17 financial year.

It was explained that the projected overspend is mainly due to an overrun of £5.2 million on adult social care.

Cllr Clatworthy said:

“This administration has balanced its budget for the past seven years despite facing multi-million pound austerity cuts every year. We have absolutely no intention of not balancing the books.

“There has also been a relentless, upward pressure on demand for adult services with Devon being home to a higher proportion of people aged over 65 – and especially over 85 – than is typical.

“We are also facing additional costs from added responsibilities such as the introduction of the Care Act and paying workers delivering care in the community and in care homes the National Living Wage.

“Almost all our neighbours in the South West are facing similar pressures and similar demands on their budgets.”

Austerity cuts have prompted the Council to reduce overall spending by £244 million since 2009, during which time it’s spent £1 billion on improving infrastructure with developments such as the South Devon link road, the Exeter Science Park, the Crediton by-pass and the new rail stations at Cranbrook and Newcourt.

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