Northamptonshire County Council heads to end of 2019 predicting a budget overspend

The latest finance report for Northamptonshire County Council says the council is predicting a £1.9m overspend at the end of the financial year in April.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 6:00 am
The majority of the planned for savings in children's services are unlikely to be achieved.

The authority’s financial position has improved by £295,000 on the last quarter according to the revenue monitoring budget report that will be discussed by the council’s cabinet tomorrow (Dec 17).

The Government commissioner-led authority had to make £41.1m of savings this financial year with a budget of £417.7m to spend across all its services.

The savings have been made across all departments although the council has struggled to make its planned for savings in its troubled children’s services department.

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It had set out a scheme to save a considerable £10m from its £124m budget, but is predicting only £2.5m of these are achievable.

The department, which is led by new director of services Cathi Hadley and overseen by a new Government-appointed children’s commissioner after the departure of Malcolm Newsam and Sally Hodges this autumn, won’t make almost £3m of planned savings in staffing where it hoped to convert agency staff to permanent and also recruit social workers from abroad.

The £7.5m savings that won’t be made across children’s services will instead be offset by £5.4m of extra savings in other areas and £1.1m of additional anticipated funding from the business rates pool.

The place department – which includes roads and recycling – is bearing the lion’s share of the additional savings with penalty charges to the school’s PFI contractor Amey making up a significant amount as well as cuts to a number of other areas such as the road safety and the bikeability scheme.

The report says: “In recent months the council’s identified forecast overspend for 2019-20 has stabilised, and gradually reduced, due to the considerable effort of officers in gripping the financial issues identified early in the financial year and containing and reducing expenditure where possible.

“The council continues to be committed in delivering a balanced budget without the planned use of reserves, therefore directorates will continue to identify further options for cost reduction, and the maximisation of income streams to address the residual forecast overspend position. When these recovery actions are confirmed as deliverable, they will be incorporated in future finance reports to cabinet.”

The authority now has less than four months to make the £1.9m of savings. In the 2018/19 the authority says it underspent by £4.6m – although this figure is still to be externally audited and in 2017/18 it bust its budget by an unprecedented £41.1m.