Ellie Ames 06 September 2023

Suffolk’s essential service funding ‘not sustainable’

 Suffolk’s essential service funding ‘not sustainable’ image
Image: Gordon Bell / Shutterstock.com

Suffolk County Council has forecast it will spend £22.3m over its budget this year, with the costs of school transport and looking after children in care making up two thirds of the overspend.

The authority said it expected a £29.3m overspend, 4% of its £688m budget, to be partially offset by £7m from the combined income of an additional Section 31 government grant and the pooling of business rates with the county’s district and borough councils.

Suffolk’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and environment, Cllr Richard Rout, said the council was ‘experiencing unexpectedly high demands on certain services’.

The cost of school transport, largely travel for children with special educational needs and disabilities, is forecast to make up 39% of the overspend, with a further 28% from above-budget spending on looking after children in care.

The council also projects a £15.8m overspend against a £256.5m budget from the dedicated schools grant and pupil premium grant.

Cllr Rout said: ‘We are seeing councils around the country having to reduce services and put spending freezes in place, so that they can balance their budgets for this year. Unfortunately, we must now have these discussions too.

‘For many years, we have made savings through our transformation programmes – essentially ways of working smarter and leaner whilst still delivering services.

‘We have also built up an appropriate level of reserves, meaning we have savings which we are able to call upon now.

‘But this is not sustainable and now that cabinet has been presented with the council’s first financial report for this year, we will work with directors to help reduce this predicted overspend.’

Suffolk’s cabinet will discuss its budget on 12 September.

With councils across the country facing financial difficulties, the UK’s biggest local authority, Birmingham City Council, issued a section 114 notice yesterday.

If this article was of interest, then check out our feature, 'Preventing future Section 114 notices'.

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