Buckinghamshire County Council has announced a freeze on non-essential spending to ensure it can meet the rising cost of looking after the most vulnerable people across Buckinghamshire.
The Council is taking decisive action to address a possible budget shortfall of almost £6m by March 2016, mainly due to increasing demand for social care for both adults and children.
Martin Tett, Leader of the Council, said: “Yesterday, my Cabinet and I agreed, in public, to a freeze on all non-essential spending until the end of the financial year to stop what could become a very challenging situation for us and the public.
“External pressures and demand for services mean we face a potential overspend, despite the fact we are a well-run, efficient Council which has saved almost £100m over the past five years. It is precisely because we are well-run that we can see the early warning signs and react to them in time.
“Many county councils across the country are facing similar difficulties, not helped by the fact that we legally have to set a balanced budget at the beginning of every financial year.
“The main catalyst for our potential overspend is the significant increase in demand on services for vulnerable adults and children. There is little we can do about this because we have to give priority to safeguarding our old and our young.
“However, we can control other parts of Council spending. So, from now, spending will be frozen on non-essential, non-committed items until the end of March. By non-essential, we mean activities that we are not required to do by law. There will of course be exceptions because we have to keep the business going.
“The actions will include a freeze on the filling of non-essential vacancies. We will also be reviewing all agency and contracted posts, renewal of computer equipment, building adaptions and staff training, amongst other things. And the public will also see an impact in terms of highways and pavements maintenance, as we will need to postpone some routine repairs and improvement projects.
“I’m sorry to have to do this but if we don’t act, we could find we have no money left in reserves in a year or so.
“Managing the council’s budget is like managing your own household budget – as soon as you see the prospect of getting into debt, you tighten your belt.”