Dorset Council has welcomed the Chancellor’s spending round announcement to increase funding for council-run services.
However, it still warned of a ‘challenging budget position’ because of ‘growing demand’ for children’s services and adult social care.
On Wednesday last week, Chancellor Sajid Javid promised access for councils across the country to £1.5bn new funding for social care, and an additional £700m to support children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
He also outlined plans to increase school spending by £7.1bn by 2022-23 and £54m of additional funding to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.
Dorset Council will not find out its local allocation of this promised funding until December.
However, the council’s finance officers estimate that the funding could be as much as £10m from government for the next financial year. This is against current funding levels of £295m.
Leader of Dorset Council, Councillor Spencer Flower, said: ‘I am pleased to see that the government has recognised the need to rebalance the past cuts in funding for essential local government services. I wrote to Chancellor Sajid Javid on 20 August with a plea for fairer funding for Dorset. I explained to the Chancellor that the recent local government reorganisation in Dorset, which he approved in his former role as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is indeed achieving significant efficiencies and cost reductions.
‘We are on track to achieve a £10m reduction in our salary bill resulting from de-duplication of roles. And we will make further significant budget savings next year and in ongoing years through service redesign and economies of scale.’
But Councillor Flower warned: ‘However, despite this, Dorset Council still faces a challenging budget position due to growing demand for children’s services (both children in care and SEND services) and adult social care, both of which we have a statutory duty to provide. This growing demand is due to demographic changes such as our ageing population and more children being diagnosed with special educational needs.
‘Due to these pressures, we find ourselves forecasting a budget overspend of £12.6m for this financial year, which we are working hard to address. This is despite an increase in our 2019/20 budget provision in both adults and children’s services of about £10m.’
‘Councils have extremely limited tools at their disposal to deal with such demographic and demand pressures. With the lack of funding provided by government over recent years, we have to rely on income from council tax to provide 82% of the council’s funding to deliver essential services for residents.’
He added: ‘I also want to be absolutely clear: the financial situation for local government in Dorset would be significantly worse if we had not gone ahead with local government reorganisation and the creation of Dorset Council.
‘The government’s promise this week of additional funding is very much welcomed and should help to address our budget pressures. We look forward to seeing the detail of what additional funding Dorset Council will receive from Wednesday’s spending round in December.’