FINANCE bosses managed to balance the council’s books for 2016/17 - but are already forecasting a near £7 million overspend this year.
Adult social care - currently consulting on closing four centres - is expected to be £5.3 million in the red while children’s services is about £1.6 million over budget.
Last year’s final position was £765,000 below budget, thanks in part to shifting revenue pressures of nearly £2 million to the capital budget, which is under less pressure.
Council leader Cllr Chris Read said it was also because the overspend in adult social care had not been as bad as predicted earlier in the year.
He said: “We were able to use use capital flexibilities to bring the budget in in a better position than we were expecting towards the end of the year, which is not in any way to understate the financial pressures that faced us and had to be addressed in year.”
Opposition leader Cllr Allen Cowles (pictured), said: “On the last year final outturn, the council has gone to great length to make the outturn appear better than it really is.
“They have used an accounting treatment, that of capitalising revenue items wherever possible, which has the effect of reducing the revenue overspend and treating the item as capital, using reserves to cover up the problem.
“Already this year after only two months we are forecasting a potential overspend of £6.9 million. If this is not brought under control it could get seriously out of hand.
“The worry is that when the budget was set we raised concerns over management controls and ability to set a realistic budget. This advice appears to have been ignored.”
Cllr David Roche, Cabinet member for adult social care and health, admitted he was concerned about his department’s figures.
But he added: “Let’s be honest, this is the national Government hitting social services, and public services in general, while spending on other things but hitting councils as much as they can.”
Cllr Saghir Alam, Cabinet member for budgeting, said: “We have made it clear that we are putting systems in place
“We are hopeful that, with both Cabinet members for adult social care and children’s services, we will get back on track.”
The council, which has to save £24 million this year, has met Government cuts of £138 million since 2010.
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