Social care strain on Rotherham Council’s budget as it has to make £18m of savings

Rotherham Council faces “significant uncertainty” about the financial consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on its budget, officers have warned.

By Danielle Andrews, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 15th November 2021, 8:09 pm

A report says there continues to be “increasing demand pressures” on social care services in Rotherham, and that the council still needs to make £18m in savings.

A financial update, presented to the full council meeting this week, recommends a “prudent use” of a £6m underspend, which has been transferred to the council’s reserves.

Of this, £2m will be earmarked for a covid recovery fund, and £2.4m will be used to bridge the council’s budget gap within the financial strategy for 2022/23.

Rotherham Council has to make £18m of savings

The remaining £1.7m will be kept as a contingency fund.

The two-year budget for 2019 to 2021 set in February 2019 required £34m of budget savings, of which £18m is still outstanding.

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The report, by Rob Mahon, Head of Corporate Finance, states that the overall challenge is “significant, in light of increased demand for services and funding uncertainty for the local government sector.”

Which services are putting the biggest strain on Rotherham Council’s budget?

Operation Stovewood

Operation Stovewood, the investigation into Child Sexual Expolitation in Rotherham following the Jay Report in 2014, continues to put a strain on the council’s budget.

Although the government granted the council £2m for costs of the operation in 2020/21, it has not committed to giving the council regular funding to meet the costs, which fall to the council.

Adult social care

Adult care and housing will cost £6.5m during the next financial year, which is forecast to almost double to £14.2m in 2023/24.

Adult care services overspent due to Covid pressures, and the department still has to make £1m in savings before the end of the year.

The overspend includes £1.8m of support that was paid through grants to care homes; £936k on PPE; and covid related care of £2.7m.

The report states: “Adult Care savings have been impacted by the pandemic as the majority of work required to deliver the savings could not take place due to Government restrictions and staff resource was diverted to support the new hospital discharge pathway and support the NHS.”

“In common with other local authorities across the country, there continues to be increasing demand pressures on social care services. These increased demands continued to place additional pressures on the Council’s financial position.”

Children and young people services

A £5.5m overspend was reported by the Children and Young People Services, which had 597 looked after children in its care – 56 above the budget target.

Regeneration and Environment

The regeneration and environment department, which oversees parking, street lighting, flood prevention, bins, planning and transport, reported an overspend of £7.9m.

This has been put down to cost pressures from cost pressures from social distancing requirements, and a loss of income from fewer visitors to theatres and country parks, and less cash generated from parking spaces.