Here’s why Sheffield Council has a £44m blackhole, who is to blame and what happens next

Sheffield Council has an overspend of £44m. Why? Who’s to blame? And how can council chiefs balance the books?

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 7:00 am

Here is everything you need to know.

Why has the council overspent by so much?

Social care is draining the budget. Out of that £44m overspend, £30.9m – 71 per cent – is in adult and children’s social care.

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Executive director of resources Eugene Walker gives a bleak forecast about Sheffield Council\'s budget

Sheffield provides both adult and children’s social care, not all councils deal with both.

And while the Government recently announced £86 billion funding for social care, this will go to the NHS and won’t help councils.

What about the pandemic?

Covid added to the council’s money worries but also increased pressure on social care.

Finance chief Eugene Walker said: “Last year we balanced the budget but we had a significant amount of pressures during the pandemic with the specific Covid related extra tasks we did, significant issues with a number of services, lost income and a lot of pressures on social care.

“The Government did provide a significant amount of funding but a lot of those pressures, particularly on social care, are still there in the system and there’s a continuing impact on areas such as leisure.”

Can the Government give Sheffield more money?

Coun Cate McDonald, Executive member for finance, says since 2010 Sheffield has suffered cuts in government funding of £475m.

She said: “Many in our communities are facing financial hardship at the same time as we are facing increases in inflation, energy prices and taxation.

“Five million people will lose the much needed £20 Universal Credit increase and hundreds of thousands of families will be thrown into poverty. This is a total disgrace.

“Many more vulnerable people will request support from the public sector, and as councils, we will be there for our communities.

“We need more funding, not less, to respond to the challenges we are facing.”

Can the council make any more savings?

Lib Dem Leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed says an easy saving would be to stop paying trade union reps.

He told a meeting: “Despite all the pressures, the sacred cows are still there to be protected – the subsidised trade union officials.

“This Labour council will never ever touch them, they will continue to put money into these instead of protecting vital services.

“Council spin doctors are still being protected and we’re spending millions on consultants.

“Here’s your chance to actually prioritise frontline services and stop subsidising trade union officials.”

This all sounds bleak, what will happen next?

Voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes are already underway at the council and spending in certain departments needs to be reined in.

The Government is conducting a comprehensive spending review, but it’s not clear what this will mean for Sheffield and details are not expected until early December

Eugene Walker says: “The government’s only answer to social care and funding problems at the moment is to find efficiencies and raise council tax. That’s the significant challenge we’re facing so we need to be very clear about our priorities.”