New Dorset Council predicts £12.6m overspend

Dorset County Hall Image copyright Google
Image caption Deputy leader Peter Wharf described the situation as "challenging"

Dorset Council is forecasting an overspend of £12.6m in its first financial year.

The new authority expects to breach its "directly-controlled" budget by £7.1m and funding for schools and education by up to £5.5m.

Dorset's nine councils merged into two in April, to save £108m over six years.

The council said that despite the overspend "significant savings" had been achieved and work was ongoing to reduce staffing and costs.

Deputy leader Peter Wharf described the situation as "challenging".

A report to the cabinet at the end of the first quarter of 2019 blames much of the overspend on an increase in demand for social care.

Reserves of £29m

It said the authority was facing a 67% increase in the number of children with special needs requiring an education, health and care plan but there had only been a 7% increase in funding.

There had also been a rising number of children being taken into care and vulnerable older people with disabilities needing support.

The report said the authority had reserves of £29m, which could be used to cover additional costs this financial year.

Since the reorganisation, the number of councillors across the area has reduced from 204 to 82, saving £400,000.

Cuts to the number of senior managers and staff are predicted to save the authority £5.2m in 2019/20.

Mr Wharf said: "This financial year is challenging for us but I am confident that the local government reorganisation and the creation of Dorset Council put us in the best possible position to manage our financial position.

"We will continue to push for better funding for social care from government. In the meantime, I have confidence that officers across the council will work hard to improve our financial position throughout the year."

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