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Rutland County Council declares £46.6 million deficit

A council has declared a £46.6 million deficit.

Rutland County Council has published its ‘2023/24 Financial Outturn Report’, in which there is notification of the deficit.

The council had forecast a deficit for 2023/24 of £47.2 million. However, that has now been adjusted down to a deficit of £46.6 million because of an underspend of £600,000.

Rutland County Council's Catmose offices in Oakham
Rutland County Council's Catmose offices in Oakham

Coun Andrew Johnson (Lib Dem) told members at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (June 11): “The council’s operating environment remains challenging, and to deliver financial sustainability the council needs to develop options for permanent cost reductions as well as increases to income.

“We have an underspend of £0.6 million against the budget, due largely to better investments, and the report shows the financial performance to date is contributing to the sustainability of the council, but these are one-off savings only.

“The underspend position is favourable, and shows a reduction in the use of reserves to support day to day expenditure, which is in line with the council’s overall sustainability strategy.

“However, the underspend has been offset by £3.1 million of other pressures that have materialised during the year such as expenditure of £1.6 million on the Special Education Needs (SEN) for children, and £756,000 for home to school transport, as well as an additional £200,000 for road maintenance, increased supplier costs within the adult social care sector of another £200,000, and £200,000 of costs ensuring the safeguarding of children through the necessary use of high cost care placements and agency staffing.”

Coun Tim Smith (Lib Dem), who is the portfolio holder responsible for families and children, said of the report: “The pressure on expenditure for SEN children and families will most probably double from the £1.6 million overspend in 2023/24, to £2.9 million in 2024/25.

“Back in 2019, we had 119 cases to deal with. Today, that number is 342. In addition, the council is experiencing an increase in the number of providers requesting above inflation increases when placing new services, and likewise there has been a reduction in the number of providers in Rutland, with some clients requiring alternative care provision as providers have left the market due to operating pressures.”

Coun Christine Wise (Lib Dem), who is responsible for transport, added: “The £666,000 transportation overspend is made up of £756,000 on commissioned transport, with the majority relating to significant additional demand for SEN home to school transport.

“This pressure has been mitigated by underspends on public transport of £90,000 due to changes in the council’s service provision, as well as additional government grants to support bus services.”

Leader of the council, Coun Gale Waller (Lib Dem) summed up by saying: “We are in a difficult position with regards to finances, as are many other local authorities up and down the country.

“We have to realise that there is no bottomless pit of money, there has to be controls over the funding; so thank you Coun Smith and Coun Wise for your explanations there, and it is something that we shall all be keeping an eye on.”

The next meeting of the cabinet is on July 9.

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