Bid to shave £9m from Edinburgh’s care budget was ‘too optimistic’

A general view of Edinburgh City Council Headquarters in Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
A general view of Edinburgh City Council Headquarters in Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
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Promises to cut £9m from Edinburgh’s health and social care services this financial year were “too optimistic” as the authority draws up plans to remove £47m from the 2019/20 budget, the city council’s finance chief has admitted.

Budget proposals are expected to be revealed today , subject to public consultation and approval by councillors.

The SNP group reportedly met for six hours on Tuesday to try and thrash out a deal, while the Labour side of the coalition was expected to agree its plans on Wednesday. Reportedly more than  80 items could be set for the axe, ranging from £30,000 to £8m in next year’s budget.

The £47m of cuts is partly made up of a failure to meet £9m of promised cuts to health and social care services this financial year – with the current overspend sitting at around £7m.

The council’s head of finance, Hugh Dunn, remains confident that this year’s budget will be balanced – but called for mistakes not to be repeated next year.

He said: “If we are looking at savings plans, we need to make sure that if members approve these, we need to have robust business plans in place before the start of the year and preparations done as early as we can to try and get as much surety as we can.

“We need to be able to take reasonable assurance that the savings can be achieved.

“Some of the savings, particularly in health and social care, were too optimistic. We have looked at that and reduced the level of savings going forward. Part of the thing is we didn’t have sufficient capacity to allocate these savings.

“People were doing  it as part of business as usual. You can’t just do it as an additional task at the end of the day.”

Conservative Cllr Phil Doggart, believes councillors need confidence that savings can be achieved next year.

He said: “We have really struggled and increasingly struggled to meet the savings that we need to make. I suspect the pressures for 19/20 are going to be similar, given what settlement we might get.

“If we are facing problems in meeting the savings targets, do we not need to do that extra layer of investigative work to make sure that we can meet the savings – given the constraints that we are working 
under?”

Chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care partnership, Judith Proctor, who has been in her position since May 2018, called for a “realistic saving programme for next year that we can confidently deliver”.

She added: “As we go forward into next year, we have recast all the savings programmes. They were focused perhaps on the right things but the construct of some of those projects was not correct. We need to really focus on achieving.”

Director for communities and families, Alistair Gaw, assured councillors that savings failed to be completed in senior management this financial year are likely to be part of next year’s budget.

He said: “There are significant proposals around senior management savings for 19/20. The money will be saved but a bit later than anticipated.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com