West Sussex County Council predicts current year budget overrun

Chichester County Hotel. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160448001

A report to a board review committee presented the financial situation at the end of June – the end of the first quarter – with advisers informed that “uncertainty is always our watchword.”

The bulk of the problem came from the Children and Youth portfolio and the Learning and Skills portfolio, which were respectively £ 3.1million and £ 1.92million over budget.

Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Obviously the team is working hard to contain these expenses, but the cost pressures keep increasing.

“We are not the only ones facing these pressures – many other authorities are in a similar position – but that does not mean that we should not continue to try to remedy this continuing overshoot.”

The main issues in the children’s portfolio have been the cost of school places for young people with special needs, the cost of supporting vulnerable children and their families, and the cost of finding various school places for children in care. by the board.

Mr Hunt called on the children’s services review committee to work with cabinet members and officers to “try to keep these costs under control.”

The cost of home-to-school transportation for children with special needs was one area that weighed on the learning and skills budget.

Regarding adult services, Mr Hunt said: “The demands for our adult services continue to increase but, thanks to funding from the Covid grant and the reserve we built up at the end of the last year, the service predicts a balanced budget at the end of the year. to finish.

“Nonetheless, the underlying pressures are still there.”

The council’s savings target for 2021/22, across all portfolios, is £ 18.5million, with £ 3.1million in additional savings from 2020/21 to be achieved.

A report to the committee said more than half of those savings targets were either red or orange – unlikely to be met or threatened.

Katharine Eberhart, Chief Financial Officer, said: “Uncertainty is always our watchword. We are less certain than before the pandemic of how our year will unfold.

“It was very difficult last year during the pandemic to advance the work required to achieve the expected savings and efficiencies and, although this year is under less pressure, we are still [spending] energy on projects that were not planned at the start of the year.

“We will continue to monitor this throughout the year to make sure we understand if we are facing a gap.”

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Natalee Broderick

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