Fears as departments reveal overspending by millions

Sheffield Council needs to take ‘urgent action’ to bring a multi-million pound overspend under control as several departments struggle to cope with making huge cuts.

The worst affected department is adult social care, where overspending is forecast to hit £11.5m, while Children, Young People and Families is exceeding its budget by £747,000.

Meanwhile a £2.1m overspend is expected as the council struggles to deliver waste management savings.

The figures were revealed in the council’s quarterly budget report, which goes before cabinet members for discussion next week.

The report says current spending is ‘unsustainable’ when set against the authority’s non-earmarked cash reserves of £11.2m.

“The position requires urgent management action to bring forecast expenditure in line with budget,” cabinet members are told.

“The council has been required to deliver approximately £182m of savings in the last three years and this current position will reflect the difficulty in implementing service delivery reductions of this scale.”

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for health, care and independent living, blamed the social care overspend on a rising demand on services.

The department is exceeding its budget by £9.1m on care and support for people with learning disabilities and care for the elderly.

There is also a £2.5m overspend on services for people with mental health problems.

Josie Bennett, head of the council’s adult learning disabilities service, is currently suspended from her work with the council while an investigation is under way into a £6.5m overspend in her department, which has a budget of £35m.

Richard Webb, the council’s executive director of communities, said he could not comment while a ‘live management investigation’ was under way.

Coun Lea said: “Urgent action is being taken to pull us back on track financially, but in tough financial circumstances we need to prioritise budgets as fairly as we can.

“We also need to ensure that we look again at how we run services to target council funding in the most effective and fairest way.”

Work to deal with the overspending includes restrictions on recruitment, and cuts to management and administration costs.

Coun Lea said the situation had been made worse by the £36.5m in cuts to adult social care that the council has had to make.

Mr Webb added that there has been an increase in people needing support for mental health issues and disabilities.

“The hospitals are also facing a lot of pressure, to get people out of hospital and into the community,” he added.

The NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group is currently putting plans into action to cut admissions to wards - particularly emergency admissions - to save money and ease the strain on hospitals.

Mr Webb said this was having a ‘knock-on effect’ on the council as a consequence, but said it ‘wasn’t appropriate’ to discuss negotiations with the commissioning group.

Children, Young People and Families is experiencing increased costs relating to free travel passes and is also overspending on residential homes for youngsters.

Total overspending is forecast to reach £8.3m, taking into account savings against the redundancy budget and housing benefits subsidy.