In a stark and concerning revelation, Somerset Council has issued a warning, expressing its dire financial straits in sustaining both adult and children’s social care. This ominous disclosure follows a recurrent occurrence, as the authority was compelled, for the second consecutive year, to tap into its financial reserves to underwrite these vital services.
Preceding the forthcoming executive meeting slated for 6th September, the council released agenda papers that painted a sombre financial picture, describing the situation as “stark and challenging.”
The council’s current projection depicts an expected overspend of £21 million this year on these legally mandated services, which stands as a testament to the gravity of the predicament. This financial turbulence stems from the previous year’s withdrawal of £18 million from reserves to bolster social care budgets.
Councillor Liz Leyshon, who serves as the Lead Member for Resources and Performance and also holds the position of Deputy Leader of Somerset Council, articulated the severity of the situation, stating, “Obviously repeatedly resorting to the Council’s reserves to sustain day-to-day care services is an unsustainable course of action that jeopardises the financial stability of the council.”
She continued, highlighting the persisting national challenges: “The national problems we warned about last year have not improved; if anything, they are exacerbated. The relentless demand for social care continues to surge, and the spectres of inflation and rising interest rates loom ominously. We are now confronted with a comprehensive view of the financial legacies left by the five predecessor Councils, although external auditors are still labouring to complete their assessment.”
Councillor Leyshon elucidated the trials ahead: “The immediate and forthcoming two years will prove especially trying, until the benefits of the service transformation at the new Council begin to manifest. After a decade of neglect, it is imperative that the Government address the future of council funding and acknowledge the mounting pressures, particularly on councils entrusted with social care responsibilities, which are driving well-managed Councils perilously close to issuing a Section 114 notice.”
She concluded with a note of optimism and a call for collaboration: “Having already derived savings from the consolidation of five councils into one, we are now embarking on a transformation programme that promises to yield savings in the next two to three years. Our collaboration with the local NHS to integrate our care services is proceeding successfully, offering a glimmer of hope in these challenging times.”