KEY services could face even further cuts if Argyll and Bute Council needs to implement plans to recover a health overspend, a new report has warned.

The local authority’s chief executive Cleland Sneddon has stated that the forecast overspend by the area’s health and social care partnership [HSCP] exceeds what the authority has in reserve.

The council is predicting an overspend of £1.671 million on social work services in 2019/20 – a figure which must be paid back.

But only £1.612m of uncommitted money is available to the council, meaning “emergency measures” may have to be implemented to pay off the rest of the overspend.

READ MORE: 'When will we get our social care money back?', asks councillor

Among the services named by Mr Sneddon that are likely to be impacted in such a scenario are education, roads and infrastructure, and customer and support services.

The chief executive also said he would want assurances that the HSCP had put similar measures in place before putting emergency plans into action.

Mr Sneddon’s report was considered by the HSCP’s integration joint board [IJB] at a meeting on Wednesday, November 27.

Mr Sneddon said in the report: “Previous years’ overspends written back to the council total £4.282m, which require to be repaid by the HSCP and are subject to a tapered repayment schedule, with £100,000 due to have been repaid in the current financial year.

“Advice from the council’s external auditors, Audit Scotland, indicates that the council cannot create a debtor provision on its balance sheet for the outstanding sum and therefore this debt impacts directly on the council’s reserves position.

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute faces £9m savings target for 2020-21, report reveals

“At start of financial year 2019/20, the council only had £1.706m uncommitted general reserves and in June 2019 committed £0.094m of this to other services, reducing the uncommitted amount to £1.612m.

“The effect of a further overspend of £1.671m by the HSCP is to push the council’s outturn position into its ‘financial policy contingency’ provision.

“That in turn would trigger the council’s section 95 officer to introduce a financial recovery plan, containing emergency measures to bring the council’s outturn position back into balance.

“The council is also entering the winter period that in previous years has seen additional budgetary pressures emerge.

“Since the approval of the 2019/20 [HSCP] budget, an initial financial recovery plan was agreed on August 7 and a further version of the plan was agreed on September 25.

READ MORE: Health and care overspend could hit £3m, board members told

“Despite these iterations the agreed savings have not been delivered in full and an overspend remains projected.

“A council financial recovery plan featuring emergency measures would impact on all ‘retained’ council services such as education, roads and infrastructure, commercial services, customer and support services, development and economic growth, and legal and regulatory services.

“Before implementing such measures, I would want full assurance from the IJB that all such similar emergency measures have been implemented by the HSCP, and that detailed plans and management controls are in place for the delivery of the remaining agreed savings.”

The council’s spending priorities for 2020-21 are currently the subject of a public consultation exercise, following initial discussions in October by the policy and resources committee and then by the full council.

Mr Sneddon is due to leave his chief executive’s post in the New Year for a similar role in South Lanarkshire.

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