Sheffield council boss suspended over finances

Josie Bennett, head of Sheffield Council's learning disabilities servicve
Josie Bennett, head of Sheffield Council's learning disabilities servicve
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The head of Sheffield Council’s adult learning disabilities service has been suspended amid serious concerns about the department’s finances.

Josie Bennett was suspended after an audit forecast her department could overspend its £35 million budget by as much as £7 million during the current 2013/14 financial year.

Checks have found Sheffield Council’s adult social care service is due to overspend by £20 million overall - unless urgent action is taken.

The authority says Ms Bennett, who has been in her role since 2004 and is employed jointly by the council and Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Trust, is not suspected of wrongdoing but that it needs to ‘assess’ how her department is handling its budget.

Ms Bennett has been suspended from her work with the council only, and has not been suspended by the NHS.

An internal memo reveals the council is ‘undertaking an investigation into financial and managerial elements’ of the service.

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “There is a projected overspend in the communities social care budget, which has been identified.

“The council is taking action to make sure that projected spending against this budget is brought down.

“We are not in a position to comment further on matters relating to individual members of staff.”

The Sheffield Council ‘assessment’ is being headed by chief executive John Mothersole and head of corporate resources, Laraine Manley.

A council source said: “This is quite simply a very large predicted overspend that we need to get to the bottom of.”

One worker within the adult social care department at the council said: “We are very concerned about what is happening. The predicted overspend is very large and, if the council needs to make savings, that could potentially mean more job losses.

“Morale is low already, with further rounds of cuts to come, and this is the last thing we need.”