Portsmouth Council has more more money than it thought it did – so has to save less cash
A BOOST in council tax income and the end of austerity could mean the Portsmouth council has to save £3m less over the next two years than first predicted.
New papers, that take into account a rise in the number of taxpayers and the expectation of less severe government cuts, show that in 2019/20 and 2020/21 savings of £2.5m a year would be enough to stay in the black.
This is significantly less than original estimations that proposed £4m was needed annually in savings for both years.
As a result the extra £4m that had been set out for children's social care can be awarded as planned, as well as an extra £500,000 for adult social care - which are two of the most financially stretched council services.
For council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, protecting these services was a priority. 'I'm very pleased we have been able to amend our budget proposals to address the ongoing pressures in children's social care,' he said.
Portsmouth City Council has seen pressures on children's services dramatically rise in recent years, an issue faced by councils across the UK.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: 'We are able to put this forward thanks to a decade of prudent financial management including tackling government funding reductions head on. In the last five years the number of children in care has risen by more than 40 per cent which has resulted in an overspend of almost £7m in that portfolio.
'The council has never been overspent as a whole because of the responsible approach taken to financial management but we now have the opportunity to improve the situation.'
Cllr Rob Wood, the council's head of children's social care, believed this was a step towards a more sustainable future. 'We have a responsibility to look after some of the most vulnerable members of community and unfortunately that costs money,' he said.
'This addition to the budget gives children's social care the opportunity to address the pressures that are being experienced and move towards a sustainable approach.
'Trying to put right an overspend of nearly £7m is not realistically achievable but doing this will make it more practical. This demonstrates our priority of safeguarding those who need it while still maintaining a commitment to moving children's social care towards financial sustainability.'
These figures will go to cabinet for approval on February 5 before full council votes on the annual budget the following week.
Council tax, as set by the council, is still expected to rise by 4.49 per cent next year.