Nearly half a million pounds found to help alleviate social work ‘budget pressures’

BUDGETS have been frozen at the council to enable £450,000 of funds to be made available to support ‘budget pressures’ in 2014/15.

Members of the executive committee approved the plan at their meeting on Tuesday.

The report before councillors said that a review of ‘discretionary and uncommitted budgets’ in the current financial year had been undertaken, which had identified £562,000 of potential savings.

From this pot of money, £450,000 has been earmarked to fund an anticipated rise in costs for SBC’s social work department due to more children needing residential and secure unit placements.

The report stated: “Whilst considered at this point to be temporary, the pressure arising from the increased number of placements is considered a significant risk to delivering the council’s five-year balanced financial plan (2014/15-2018/19).

“A review of discretionary and uncommitted budgets for the remainder of 2013/14 in all services was identified as the best option to identify funds to support the anticipated budget pressure in children’s services in 2014/15.

“As part of the November revenue monitoring all budget holders were asked to review discretionary budgets for the remaining four months of 2013/14 and to identify potential savings.”

Members also agreed that any remaining discretionary budgets can only be released with approval of the relevant head of service or chief officer.

The social work department has already faced extra budget issues this year due to a need for more placements.

The report said: “This pressure has been funded by the identification of additional budget in the current year. No such additional funding has been provided in the 2014/15 revenue budget, however, and as a consequence it was considered prudent to look at discretionary spend across the council’s services in the current year as a means to provide funding to help meet this pressure in 2014/15.”

Non-critical vacancies, use of external consultants, business travel, attendance at conferences and even cost of supplies have been looked at to find the cash.

The savings have been identified in the chief executive and education departments and from loan charges, where £300,000 has been found.

In addition to the £450,000, £91,000 of the savings will go to cover in-year costs associated with early retirement and voluntary severance and £21,000 to fund the ‘corporate policy team’, the report states.