DORSET Council is forecast a £7.1 million overspend on directly-controlled budgets and up to £5.5m for education.

But, if needed, the council says it will dip into its £28m reserve fund to ease the pressure while it works out what to do in the long-term.

Deputy council leader Peter Wharf said the authority would be best not to rush into knee-jerk reactions to the overspend but to take its time.

Cabinet members, meeting on Tuesday, heard much of the spending was down to social care – especially for children and an ever-growing number of pupils who have an education, health and care plan.

Education spokesman Andrew Parry said the number of plans had risen by 67 per cent since 2013, while at the same time the county has only received a seven per cent increase in Government funding. Just to start work on a plan costs £2,500 per pupil.

He said there had not only been an increase in the number of pupils which the council was obliged, and wanted to help, but also a rise in the complexity.

Cllr Parry said the council had written to the Secretary of State and a meeting was likely to be held in September.

Also costing more is support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, while the number of children taken into care to keep them safe from immediate risk of harm has also increased and now stands at more than 430, higher than comparable councils.

Some residential care placements for highly vulnerable children or those who might present a danger to themselves or to others cost between £3,000 and £8,250 per week, almost all out of the county, some of them hundreds of miles away.

Also costing more than anticipated is social care support for vulnerable and frail older people and people with disabilities.

Cllr Wharf told councillors he was still hopeful of making savings of £10m a year by reducing duplicate posts and some managerial positions at the council, but while those job losses were being agreed a review of the 2019-20 budget was also under way.

Cabinet members were told that the authority has more than £28m in reserve funds, almost double the £14.5m thought prudent, giving it some room for manoeuvre.

Other action being taken which may help is the disposal of assets, although few decisions are expected until January about what land and properties might be sold as a review is currently still being worked on.