MILLIONS of pounds in reserves could be needed to plug a forecast BCP Council funding gap.

Delays in staff restructuring work and rising demand on its children’s services department have contributed more than half of the £5 million it is expected to be over budget this financial year.

Cabinet members are being asked to consider the use of £9 million set aside in the budget set earlier this year to cover the overspend when they meet on Wednesday.

The figures have been published in the first quarterly budget monitoring report produced by the council since its formation in April.

“Based on activity in the first quarter, the current estimate is a £5 million pressure within services,” it says.

“However, this projection is before consideration is given to the use of the contingency or to the draw down from the earmarked financial resilience reserves.

“It should also be highlighted that at this stage in the year forecasts are often pessimistic and there is only one quarter of activity to review in considering expenditure trends for the new council.”

More than half of the £4,993,000 projected overspend is within the council’s children’s services department.

Despite the number of children in care being slightly below predictions, spending on the 468 youngsters is expected to exceed budgets.

“The cost of children in care is currently projected to be £1.5 million in excess of the budget by year end with there being several elements associated with this forecast,” the report adds.

“The first is that the level of cases inherited in respect of the Christchurch area is higher than previously known and this equates to an annual cost of £353,000.”

Rising numbers of children with special educational needs and disabilities have also contributed to overspending with the budget for the provision of free school transport £400,000 higher than expected.

Delays in the restructuring of staff and the £215,000 “price inflation” in street lighting have also contributed to the forecast.