Cash cuts on adult services to balance the council books

PUBLISHED: 11:14 19 October 2006 | UPDATED: 13:33 04 May 2010

COUNCIL bosses who failed to get their sums right are threatening to balance their books by cutting cash help for the county s vulnerable. County councillors have been told they must slash spending on adult services by £1.3 million or bust the budget by t

COUNCIL bosses who failed to get their sums right are threatening to balance their books by cutting cash help for the county's vulnerable.

County councillors have been told they must slash spending on adult services by £1.3 million or bust the budget by the end of the financial year.

But on Friday they were told at a seminar that the service is hurtling into the red because no-one knew how much it was actually costing to run it.

Social services officials had failed to keep tabs on people joining throughout the year and were unaware of how many people the service was actually supporting.

They worked out this year's budget by estimating demand in previous years - and got it wrong, resulting in around 100 people they hadn't budgeted for.

The news comes less than a year after social services on Tory-controlled Cambridgeshire County Council were "labelled as one of the worst in the country" by Government inspectors who stripped it of one of its two stars.

Only three councils in the country were left with lower ratings and inspectors feared that improvement in Cambridgeshire was "uncertain".

Ely's county councillor, Liberal Democrat Simon Higginson, who sits on the health and adult social care committee, said: "This is a systemic problem running through social services. We are paying managers to work out these figures - what are they doing?

"There is a long-term problem here. We have 100 people using the service and we haven't budgeted for them. Social services is always the area with a big overspend. and the problem is in the management."

The cuts are part of a £2.8 million package of savings which will also include around £500,000 worth of cuts to highway schemes.

Liberal Democrat leader on the county council, Cllr Julian Huppert, said: "This latest move just shows how poor the Conservative financial management is. Like in so many years they have racked up huge overspends and have had to cut savagely mid-year, without proper discussion, in order to balance the books."

Defending the service, county council leader, Cllr Keith Walters, said: "We have to guess each year how many people are going to come forward for the service and the treatments are getting more and more expensive. We can see how many people used it last year and will be coming through this year, less those who die. But we cannot guess how many new ones there will be.

"It is worse this year than in previous years. But it is happening all over the country.

"The only alternative we have is to change the eligibility criteria and say that we are not going to give you help unless your situation is critical. That is a difficult step to take and one we are resisting at the moment.

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