GWYNEDD Council departments are expected to overspend their collective budgets by almost £5m, finance chiefs have warned amid claims that services have now been “cut to the bone.”
A cabinet meeting heard that ongoing pressures were forecast to result in an overspend of £4.7m from the allocated £221m budget for 2020/21.
While extra Welsh Government cash is expected to fill most of the eventual gap, the report partially blamed departments failing to meet previously set savings targets, with Covid-19 said to have had a “significant impact.”
Warning of an expected adults service overspend of £3.3m – despite more funding being made available this year – £1.8m was a result of failing to achieve “increasingly difficult” savings schemes.
Other factors include increased demand for domiciliary care packages, pressure on residential and nursing care provision and an overspend on supported accommodation
Children’s services, meanwhile, has been projected to overspend by £2.5m, exacerbated by growing demand and eight new costly out-of-county placements.
Waste collection and disposal is also expected to be largely responsible for tipping highways and municipal £646,000 into the red if forecasts are realised, partially due to delays in implementing new shift patterns and collection arrangements, extra costs, less income due to Covid-19 and a drop in income for sold recycled materials.
Head of finance, Dafydd L Edwards, suggested during Tuesday’s meeting that the £4.7m figure may be “overstated” due to the authority expecting “at least” another £3m from the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 hardship fund, with an extra £1.3m also set to be recouped thanks to an underspend in the council’s own corporate budgets.
Chief Executive, Dilwyn Williams, also paid tribute to the “financial prudence” of the authority over many years for setting a “firm foundation” by maintaining heathy reserves – standing at approximately £7.6m.
Environmental portfolio holder, Cllr Gareth Griffith – whose department faces a £369,000 overspend – said that Covid had “hit them hard” this year.
But deputy leader, Cllr Dafydd Meurig, warned that the current situation was a “very challenging” one, but that blaming Covid alone “would not be an accurate picture”.
Cllr Meurig, who also holds the adults services portfolio, added:
“It’s been difficult for several years due to not enough money and yet rising demand.
“These are not excuses but simply the result of 10 years of austerity, and I feel we have reached the end of what its possible to achieve in terms of savings.
“We have been cut to the bone but when the people of Gwynedd are in need we simply must meet their needs.”
Cllr Dilwyn Morgan, who leads on children’s services, said that the growing costs of placing cared for children in specialist placements was “not a problem unique to Gwynedd”, but conceded that year on year overspends was putting pressure on council finances.
Cllr Catrin Wager, holding the highways and municipal portfolio, said that the department had borne several cuts but was one that was visible and serving every home in the county.
She added, “I suggest that some work is needed to establish the true cost of the service compared to the finance that’s available as cuts have not helped us in terms of delivering a service.”
The report was approved unanimously, with the full picture expected to be clarified shortly after the end of the current financial year in March.