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Cornwall battles to balance books as care costs rocket

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 27, 2014

By Andy Greenwood, WMN Chief Reporter, Twitter: @HackInTheShack

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Cornwall Council is expecting a massive overspend of £11.6million on its adult care budget last year.

The authority singled out rising costs from its “Early Intervention Service”, which was established in 2012 to provide home care to avoid admission to hospital, for busting its budget.

However, it is believed that underspending in other departments, above and beyond cuts imposed by Government, will see the authority balance its books for 2013-14.

Councillor Jim McKenna, who started work as Cabinet member for health and adult care two weeks ago, wrote to fellow councillors this week to explain the situation.

“This is a difficult time for both the council and our health partners with new legislation, a growing demand for services and increasing financial pressures,” he said.

“There have also been major changes in the management of the council, with a new chief executive, the creation of a single directorate for children and adults services under a new corporate director and the appointment of a new chair of the health and wellbeing board.

“These changes have provided the opportunity for a fresh look at how we are delivering adult social care.”

A series of reviews have been carried out into the service as councillors’ concerns about spiralling costs have grown.

An extraordinary meeting of the council’s Audit Committee earlier this month was told that “control effectiveness was poor and that the residual risk exposure to the organisation was high”.

In his briefing to members, Mr McKenna said the reviews had highlighted “a number of positive aspects of the service, including the commitment and hard work of staff” but had also revealed “some significant concerns, particularly over financial control within the service”.

“An action plan is being drawn up to address the issues raised in this report, however a number of changes have already been implemented, including the formation of a new single commissioning team and reconfigurations to the Early Intervention Service (EIS) service,” he said.

“As you will be aware from the monthly budget reports to the cabinet there has been a worsening budget position over the past 18 months, with the latest figures showing a forecast overspend for adult care of £11.6 million for 2013/2014.”

Mr McKenna said it was a “major concern” for the council and that he was working with senior officers to “implement measures to reduce the overspend and balance the budget”.

He concluded: “Adult care is the highest area of spend for the council and we need to tackle the issues facing the service so we can deliver high quality services. I am committed to being as open and transparent as possible.”

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