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Budget overspend ‘largely due to ageing population’
PRESSURES on elderly services and children’s care have led to County Hall blowing its budget by almost £6m in the first three months of the year.
Oxfordshire County Council has confirmed it overspent by £5.8m, or 1.4 per cent of its £412.8m budget, between April and July.
Officials say they will eventually balance the books – but the ageing population is being blamed for the problem.
The news comes after it was revealed that 582 older people are expected to be admitted to care homes in the county this year – 182 more than the target of 400.
The revelations have sparked concerns, particularly among older residents in the county.
Grandparents Cyril and Angela Burford live in Witney, and have serious concerns about the council’s continuing ability to deal with the ageing population.
Mr Burford, 84, said: “I do worry that the council will end up spending more and more every year because everyone’s living longer.
“We have noticed that people are carrying on for longer, and it is a concern.”
The council has spent more than it expected to on social services, children’s services and highways.
Most of the overspend was made by the children, education and families directorate, which is already anticipating an overspend of £3.6m on its budget of £206.8m.
This includes a £2.1m overspend on placements for looked-after children in costly homes out of the council’s control.
An overspend of £1.2m is also expected by the social and community services department, and £950,000 of unplanned expenditure has been reported in environment and economy – which deals with highways.
The variations have been hailed as a taste of things to come, with pressures as a result of an ageing population expected to mount on authorities responsible for adult social care.
Opposition finance spokesman Nick Hards said: “I was concerned by the figures. They don’t make happy reading.
“By July, we had overspent by £5.8m and the detailed breakdown indicates the main pressures are in children, education and families and social and community services.
“The most serious concerns are about the young and vulnerable and the old and vulnerable.
“What does concern me is that meeting this sort of challenge is going to cause pain to some of the people using these services.”
Council leader Ian Hudspeth said the authority had to achieve a balance between overspending and underspending.
Last year, the council underspent by £3.2m.
Mr Hudspeth said: “I know councillor Hards says he doesn’t like overspends, but I don’t like underspends either.
“This is an overspend of 1.4 per cent, and although that’s not good, at the out-turn (end of the financial year) we will hopefully balance it out.”
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