Data from a budget monitoring report predicts an £8.15m overspend with a forecast of £9.9m overspend for children’s services. With these estimates, Devon’s cabinet has suspended its plan to fill backroom job vacancies and ban all non-essential overtime and associated allowances. The cabinet also agreed to reduce council expenditure by £5 million. They, however, criticised the central government for underfunding the council.
According to Councillor Stuart Barker, cabinet member for resources management, “Like most other councils, we have an issue of rising demand and costs for children’s services, so we have to take some actions to be able to deliver those services into the future.
“We are not taking action on essential posts, so posts like children’s social workers won’t be affected. We are just delaying the replacement of vacant posts by around two months. If a vacancy arises then it will be filled, but just delayed by two months, and this is for non-essential staff.”
The Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Alan Connet said the central government should not expect the council to meet its adult and children services obligations without sufficient funding.
“Central government can’t keep expecting local government to tackle adult and children services without additional resources. The number of children coming into the service is rising, the cost of the service is rising, but government funding is reducing.
“It will lead to a perfect storm like we have seen in other councils and the government does need to put money in for essential services. And if they don’t, there will be another service failure, like Baby P, if not in this council but another.” Councillor Connet said in a statement.
On his part, Phil Norrey, chief executive of Devon County Council, said, “We are making sure that we have our house in order rather than panicking and walking over a cliff and the range of measures we are implementing we have looked at very carefully.
“There are pressures across the country and after around eight or nine years of extreme pressures on budgets, it has to come a point when we reach the end of the road on spending, and that will come in the next two or three years.”