Edinburgh Council’s finance chief ‘doesn’t expect’ care service to balance books

Health visitor and a senior woman during home visit. A nurse talking to an elderly woman.
Health visitor and a senior woman during home visit. A nurse talking to an elderly woman.
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EDINBURGH City Council’s finance chief has admitted he doesn’t expect health and social care services to balance the books this year – as Conservatives called for a leading councillor to resign over a failure to make improvements.

Director of finances, Hugh Dunn, has spoken out about the budget pressures in health and social care – and is focusing on balancing the overall council budget, helped by one-off and mitigating payments of up to £8.5 million.

Mr Dunn was quizzed by members of the finance and resources committee over health and social care services currently on course to be £7m over budget by the end of the financial year. Overall, officers expect the council to fall short of its promised savings by £12.2m – which will be offset by draining around £10m from reserves, leaving a £2m hole.

He said: “In 18/19, I’m not saying that all services will come back to a balanced budget by the end of this year. What I’m hoping to do is get an overall council budget into balance, as has been the case in the last few years.

“I don’t expect health and social care to balance their budget. I don’t think communities and families will balance their budget down to zero this year. Hopefully with a reasonably tailwind, I’ll be able to bring the overall position of the council budget into a balanced position.”

Conservative group leader Iain Whyte pressed Mr Dunn to explain the starting position for the 2019/20 financial year – where it is expected that an additional £28m of savings will need to be found.

Cllr Whyte said: “There’s about £20m of deficit this year. From what I can understand where we have made changes to that, a lot of it has been one-offs – other savings in the council or moving money around. It’s not actual savings in these budgets, it’s one-off things like not recruiting people. It leaves a recurring deficit into next year.”

Conservatives have called for Cllr Ricky Henderson, chairman of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, to resign over a failure to meet key recommendations.

Cllr Phil Doggart, Conservative social care spokesman, said: “Far from learning from that process he has now overseen its failure to improve. In doing he has failed some of the most vulnerable people of Edinburgh. It is now time for him to consider his position.”

Social care officers have been ordered to attend the next meeting of the council’s finance and resources committee after being unable to explain “urgent actions” to help balance the budget.

Finance and resources convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, said: “I don’t think there’s been enough time for those officers to say ‘ here are the results’. It will inevitably take a bit longer than they have been in office so far to achieve that – but that certainly is their intention.”

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