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Extra £5mil bridges gap for social care but pressure of increasing, ageing population remains

An extra £5million for social care will “bridge a big gap” in budgets but pressures remain in a county with an increasing, ageing population.

The first in a series of overview and scrutiny committee examinations of Pembrokeshire County Council’s draft budget and proposed council tax rise of five percent – £54 a year for a Band D property – focused on children and adult social care budgets.

The proposed council tax rise, along with a better than expected settlement from Welsh Government, and changes to the council tax base mean an extra £14million of funding for the authority.

Director of social services Jonathan Griffiths said on Thursday (January 9) that pressures remain in the sector but the “outline of supported growth measures are to be welcomed and it goes a significant way to closing the pressures gap.”

Cabinet member for finance, Bob Kilmister, said this was the first time in a number of years that there are “real choices available” and despite a need for £6million of savings “we can provide some services with an increase in budget.”

An extra £1million is proposed for out of county placements for children with complex needs – which is set to cost £2.6million in 2020-21 due to an increase in cases and slippage from previous years.

New head of children services Darren Mutter said seven placements were budgeted for, but 11 had been required with significant costs.

There will also be an extra £3.2million for internal and external pay pressures cause by an increase in minimum wage to benefit the lowest paid workers, particularly domiciliary care staff.

This increase, although a pressure, is to be welcomed said Cllr Tessa Hodgson, cabinet member for social services.

She added that in both adult and children services the council pressures remain “in terms of both numbers of people we are supporting and the complexity of the people we are seeking to support.”

A further £800,000 is allocated for the recruitment and retention of social services staff.

Members of the social care overview and scrutiny committee voted to back a recommendation to cabinet of a five per cent rise in council tax but questions were raised about whether it was enough or if any rise was something residents could accept.

A contingency recommendation of £1.5million was agreed with as were the proposed supported growth funds and efficiencies required.

No final decisions on the budget will be taken until the February meeting of full council.

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