To consider the report.
The Committee received a report from the Director of Finance, Legal & Governance and the Director of Children’s Services which updated Members on the current Revenue Budget forecast outturn position for the 2017/18 year based on the end of November as well as detailing how the Council’s resources are forecast to be used to support the delivery of budget decisions.
The Authority’s forecast shows a projected net overspend of £7.741m (see Appendix A, Annex A) when compared to the Revenue Budget. This represents 2.48% of base budget. The majority of the overspend lies in the Children’s Services budgets and the Committee received a report from the Director of Children’s Services on care placement sufficiency. Most other areas of the Council are within reasonable tolerance although some corporate and support budgets are under pressure. The implication of this forecast is that Cabinet and the Senior Leadership Team will need to continue to exercise more stringent control in all areas of council spend to ensure the final outturn position is much lower than this.
The predicted General Reserve position at the end of March 2018 is £7.270m and for the end of March 2019 is £11.270m.
A Member questioned when Children’s Services would be able to balance its budget. In response, the Committee heard that this is a national issue caused by rising need. Every authority that is performing well in Children’s Services is overspending. SCC is taking steps to address the issues but national government has continued to increase the responsibilities of local authorities without increasing funding. A challenge for Somerset is that the percentage of residential placements is much higher than for other areas. An insufficient number of foster carers means that we have to use more external residential placements, which are more costly. The cost of a foster carer placement is around a third of the cost of a residential placement. It was confirmed that both the Children & Families Scrutiny Committee and the Corporate Parenting Board are aware of this issue and that SCC is working to develop relationships with Somerset providers to try to increase the number of Somerset placements available.
The Committee heard that there has been some improvement with the recovery of aged debt. Debts are now starting to be paid and the outstanding figure is reducing.
A Member questioned the effects of the recent weather incident on the highways maintenance budget. The Committee was reassured that although the weather incident created a peak of work the budget is expected to balance out as other services, such as recycling and gardening, would not have been used so much.
The Committee noted the report.