It has been warned that Cardiff council’s social services department could miss nearly half of its planned savings for this year, despite being only three months into the financial year.
The department, the largest of its kind in Wales, is projecting that £4.44m of its £9.2m proposed savings due this year will be missed.
Just over £3m of savings targets were carried forward from last year and added to this year’s target of £6.2m
Scrutiny committee members were advised at June’s committee meeting that it may be difficult to achieve the savings agreed for this year so requested a progress report this month.
The Liberal Democrats councillors have blamed the ruling Labour group saying opposition councillors had been assured the target would be met.
Lib Dem councillor Joseph Carter, said: “During the budget negotiations at the start of the year, councillors from across the political spectrum asked social services and finance officers if savings on such a scale were realistic. We were assured they were.
“It is astonishing how savings that were presented as credible three months ago when the budget was set now appear completely unrealistic.
“We welcome the recent appointment of a new director of social services and challenge him to carry a full review of his department. One of his first jobs must be to get a grip on his department’s finances.”
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat for South Wales Central, said: “We are starting to see the consequences of Labour’s pathetic internal feuding.
“Phil Bale has spent so long fighting his own party, he has taken his eye off the ball when it comes to departmental spending. The flaws in his budget are now becoming apparent.
‘Needs sound budget management’
“I want to ensure that people’s care packages or day support are not cut back in order to balance the books.
“Providing care and support for the most vulnerable is one of the most important functions of a council, but it needs to be based on sound budget management. I doubt whether the political leadership of this council has the competence to provide that.”
Commenting on the budget position, cabinet member for health, housing and wellbeing,councillor Susan Elsmore, said: “Steps have been taken to make sure that never again will we see the level of financial mismanagement seen under the previous administration. In 2006/7 there was an overspend in social services of more than £7.5m.
“I am absolutely committed to ensuring an open and transparent approach to progress in terms of budget savings and improved performance. I wanted to share with colleagues on the scrutiny committee the challenges of delivering our planned savings whilst ensuring service delivery is maintained and improved.
‘These savings are achievable’
“I am very confident that the current projection will improve as we implement our change agenda.
“These savings are achievable over time and I would expect to see the financial position strengthening.
“I had hoped that this transparent approach to budget monitoring would be welcomed by all. I am extremely disappointed that one member of the committee has chosen to use this open approach in this way.”
[“source – walesonline.co.uk”]