The rising cost and demand for adult social care, children’s services, and school places in Surrey has caused the council to blow its budget by £15 million this year.

Surrey County Council (SCC) will not commit to any additional spending until it has balanced its budget, it was announced at its latest cabinet meeting.

  • The council overspent by £5.1 million in children's services.
  • It spent £1.2 million beyond its budget for schools and on special educational needs and disabilities.
  • SCC overspent by £20.9 million in adult social care.
  • The council managed to make savings through investment, retained business rates, and property.

The “serious” financial situation has prompted the council to use £24.8 million of reserves – its largest ever planned use of reserves to support its budget.

The cabinet agreed to adopt suggestions by the council’s Section 151 officer which included: regular meetings between the chief executive and director of finance to review progress in balancing the budget, and not committing to any spending projects until the council has a “sustainable medium-term financial plan.”

The cabinet also agreed to impose a county-wide recruitment freeze, reduce attendance at meetings to bring down travel costs and avoid administrative sosts “such as printing, venue hire and IT equipment”.

Surrey Comet:

Leader of the Council, David Hodge (pictured above), told the cabinet on November 22: “Costs, demands and finding pressures have meant we have overspent in adult social care, children’s services and schools and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

“Wherever sensible, the cabinet will not agree further spending commitments until we are assured of a balanced budget and that we have made progress towards a sustainable medium-term financial plan.”

Cllr Hodge also called on councillors to remind Surrey’s 11 MPs that a reduction in government funding had not helped the county’s finances.

He said: “The forecast overspent matches the shock reduction in 2016/17 Revenue Support Grant (RSG) that the government imposed upon the council less than a year ago.”

The council was forecast to overspend in adult social care by £20.9 million.

From September: Poorest to be 'seriously impacted' by changes to Surrey County Council's adult social care service charges

From November: Surrey County Council turns down 80 per cent of social care request due to 'huge financial strain'

Mel Few, cabinet member for adult social care, wellbeing and independence, said this was largely due to demand and price pressures as the council tried to save £55 million to offset government cuts.

Cllr Few added: “We are one of the best-performing counties in terms of hospital discharges and there is a cost to that. We will have to reconsider what we do going forwards: whether we want to be A-star or just the average.

Clare Curran, cabinet member for children and families wellbeing, said that much of the council’s £5.1 million overspend in children’s services was attributable to staffing costs.

“It is imperative that we keep a safe, fully-staffed service and that we have appropriately-qualified social workers,” she added.

The council extended a five-year project to improve the county’s roads to also repair pavements this year.

£20 million was allocated to Pavement Horizon – an addition to Operation Horizon, a £100 million strategy to improve Surrey’s roads, running between 2013 and 2018.

From April: Residents “sick to death” of pothole-ridden Preston Lane in Tadworth

From August: Pothole-ridden Cock Lane in Fetcham is finally fixed by Surrey County Council after painted penises protest

John Furey, cabinet member for highways, transport and flooding, told the cabinet: “One of the things that has helped us enormously is the cabinet’s agreeing to implement Operation Horizon for a five-year period. It provides a focus in our continued work to improve our roads.”

He added: “The major issue I have is insurance claims, which have risen dramatically. (However,) lot of this will be carry-over from the last financial year. “

Cabinet member for schools, skills and educational achievement, Linda Kemeny, said: “The demands and pressures and the number of children with complex needs that we are having to accommodate and look after is no doubt rising.

“We have to do more to create the right settings in the county, which we are doing. We recently brought admissions for special needs children under our mainstream admissions, and we are creating more places in special schools.

“There is a great deal of work to do to make sure that we can bring down the overspend in our budget.”

In the Finance and Budget Monitoring Report to October 31, 2016, the council’s Section 151 Officer (responsible for financial administration) stated: “The financial situation facing the council is serious and appropriate strategies need to be agreed to manage expenditure.

“The chief executive and director of finance have agreed a series of actions with service directors to recover the position in year and are meeting regularly with the directors to monitor the effectiveness of these actions.

“Progress will be reported in each subsequent budget monitoring report to cabinet.”

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