Council has extra £18m in the kitty because of Covid
Hannah Brown, LDR
- Credit: Archant
More than £18million was left unspent by Cambridgeshire County Council last year due to the Covid pandemic.
The revenue underspend was concentrated in adult social care.
A report to councillors said the budget had been set in a period of “great uncertainty” where the demand for social care serviced over the next year was unknown.
“Demand for social care services grew by less than expected,” said the report.
“Budgets for growth in demand were set before the outcome of much of the pandemic was known and included a significant expected increase in need for key services that has not yet appeared.
“There is a risk that need for social care was only delayed by the pandemic and could appear in a later year at increased cost.
“The pandemic has also impacted in the social care provider market, which has seen increased demand for home care and has struggled to fully resource it.
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“Contingencies set aside for additional pandemic-related costs were not fully required.”
The council says substantial additional government funding has been able to be used to fund staff in responding to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Despite the underspend, the report said the county council faces a “challenging budget position over the medium-term”.
It said: “[There are] budget gaps from 2023/24, and a continuing high level of uncertainty.
“We have rising costs from unprecedented inflation impacting both prices and wages, and uncertain levels of demand-led service activity.
“There is uncertainty about local NHS funding levels and activity that may impact on the council’s costs, particularly as national hospital discharge funding arrangements cease.”
Leader of the Conservative opposition, Cllr Steve Count, argued that the county council should refund the council tax increase it agreed, claiming the money was not needed to provide services as the joint administration had said.
Deputy leader Cllr Elisa Meschini said the money will be used where it is needed.
She explained that as there was an underspend at the end of the year that was higher than budgeted, it had ended up in the general fund.
She said the plan was to take it out of the reserves and use it in two places where it is “absolutely needed”, the high needs block and a post pandemic budgeting account, which she said was needed to help the council “cope with the uncertainty”.