Sheffield council set to overspend by £8m over year

Sheffield Town Hall viewed from across the Peace Gardens.
Sheffield Town Hall viewed from across the Peace Gardens.
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‘Urgent’ action has been ordered at Sheffield Council after a financial health check found the authority could overspend by £8 million over the current year.

The council is currently making £50 million of budget cuts due to a reduction in Government funding.

But four out of six council departments have not been sticking to harsh spending targets for the first three months of the 2013-14 financial year.

Only the Corporate department, which is forecast to be £5.4 million under-budget, and Resources - £663,000 under budget - are in the council’s good books.

The Chief Executive’s department, which looks after management functions, is due to overspend by £84,000, Children’s and Young People’s by £747,000, and Place, which covers development, environment and leisure, by £2m.

But the worst problem is in Communities, which covers social services, and is due to overspend by £11.5m.

The total predicted overspends, subtracting the underspends, would leave the council’s finances £8.3m over budget.

Eugene Walker, Sheffield Council finance officer, said: “The position at month three is unsustainable, and requires urgent action to bring forecast expenditure into line with budget.

“The council has been required to deliver approximately £182m of savings in the last three years and this current position will reflect the difficulty in implementing service delivery reductions of this scale.”

One of the major problems within the Communities department relates to a £6.5m predicted overspend within the adult learning disabilities service.

Department head Josie Bennett has been suspended over the problems.

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 it needs to ‘assess’ how her department is handling its budget.

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

A council source said of the problems in learning disabilities: “This is a large overspend that we need to get to the bottom of.”

The report on the council’s finances has been discussed by the authority’s cabinet.