A target budget which helps to safeguard social care and services for children has been approved today (Wednesday 11 January) by our Cabinet.
County council leader John Hart said a huge effort to identify savings and a welcome cash boost from the Government meant budgets to protect vulnerable children and adults in Devon could be increased this year.
The Cabinet approved a target budget for 2023/24 which includes an 18.4 per cent increase in spending on children’s services with an 8.8 per cent rise in adult social care. The budget for public health and communities is set to go up by 5.4 per cent and climate change, environment and transport by 3.5 per cent.
In all, the revenue budget will rise by 10.5 per cent from £630 million to £696 million if it is approved by the full council next month.
Last summer Mr Hart warned a perfect storm of soaring inflation and rising demand for services meant sweeping budget cuts could be needed unless tough action was taken to rein in costs and the Government provided more cash.
Since then almost £50 million of savings have been identified in the county’s spending and the Government has announced a potential cash boost of almost 10 per cent in Devon’s funding.
Mr Hart said today:
“We’ve taken urgent action to cut our own costs and find savings and I want to pay tribute to all the officers and staff who have contributed to that process.
“We’ve supported the Local Government Association and the County Councils’ Network by speaking with our MPs to demonstrate the serious situation that local councils face from this perfect storm of soaring inflation and unprecedented demand on our services and we thank them for their support.
“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. The hangover from Covid and Putin’s continuing war in Ukraine have rocked the global economy. The effects are still being felt and our finances will continue to be under severe pressure.
“But we are determined to safeguard support for the young, the old and vulnerable people in our county.
“Every night on our televisions we are seeing examples of how hard-pressed the NHS is. By working with health and the voluntary sector we need to be investing more in social care so we can reduce bed blocking and take some of the pressure off our doctors and nurses.
“We need to continue investing in modernising our services for children and young people to give them the best start in life.
“And we must ensure Devon has good infrastructure – roads, rail and broadband – so that our economy can grow and our people can prosper.”
In a report to the Cabinet, Devon’s director of finance, Angie Sinclair, said that last summer she had predicted an unprecedented overspend of £30.5 million this year with another £10 million of inflation-related risk if nothing was done. Councillors set up a special Financial Sustainability Programme in response.
“This programme has been successful in containing some expenditure and making savings which is reflected in a significantly improved forecast,” she said.
“However many of the underlying budget pressures remain and are addressed in the 2023/24 budget.
“The cost of living and geopolitical situation has created huge financial pressures nationally. As a consequence, the authority has faced unprecedented price and demand pressures in the current year. The ongoing impact of this and other pressures have been included within the proposed target budgets.”