Suffolk County Council faces potential budget overspend of £8.6 million
Suffolk County Council will have to make “some tough calls in the weeks ahead”, as it faces a budget overspend of £8.6 million.
Unless significant savings can be found by March, the authority is facing the prospect of exceeding its £501 million budget.
The warning follows an increased demand for children and young people’s services, which the authority has cited for almost £5 million of the projected overspend.
These services include specialist social care for children and home-to-school transport.
Other rising demands include adult care and corporate services.
Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “I think most people have some awareness that local councils are facing enormous financial challenges, but it’s figures like these that bring the scale of the issue into sharp focus.
“We have seen Northamptonshire County Council effectively go bust in recent months.
“I want to reassure people that Suffolk is not in that position, but that does not mean we can be complacent.
“There are going to be some tough calls to make in the weeks and months ahead, but they are calls we are going to have to make to keep Suffolk County Council within budget.
“At all times, we will work to protect the most vulnerable people that rely on us for support and care.
“I hope that residents will understand the scale of the challenge we are facing, both now and in future years.
“It is very real and very serious indeed. In return, my pledge is that we will do everything within our power to manage public money well and protect essential council services.”
Sarah Adams, leader of the opposition Labour group, denounced the authority’s budget warning.
“The announcement by the administration makes no apology, shows no remorse and fails to take ownership of the issues, giving those people who rely on the services they need only more fear and uncertainty,” she said.
“The financial problems for the county council are compounded by the Conservatives’ ideologically-driven cuts agenda, which has stunted growth in Suffolk.
“Since 2009, they have taken a regressive and economically illiterate approach to the council’s finances.
“They have failed to invest in the future of public services and we are now reaping the consequences of stifled economic growth.
“By its own admission, the council is now going to target the most vulnerable in our society, specifically children and adults in care.
“And, at the same time, this council wastes unidentified amounts of money on vanity projects, such as the Upper Orwell Crossing, and on consultants to advise on a unitary authority bid that could never happen.
“Labour councils across the country have done things differently to protect public services, so the Tories should hang their heads in shame as they look over the permanent damage they have caused to our county.”