DORSET Council’s projected overspend has shot up again – by another £2 million.

The end of the financial year projection now stands at £14.7 million in the red – despite claims at the start of the new authority that by doing away with six council it would result in savings.

Dorset Council also has one of the highest council tax bills in the country – more than even the most expensive inner London boroughs.

A report to the Tory-controlled Cabinet next week says that at the end of the council’s first three months the forecast overspend for the end of the financial year was of £7.1m for council revenue budgets and £5.5m for the schools’ budget. This has now deteriorated to £8.2m and £6.5m respectively.

At the time when the previous poor figures were reported deputy council leader Peter Wharf issued a ‘keep calm and carry on message.’ He said that, at worst, could use reserve funds to bail itself out but would continue to strive for savings and more efficient working.

The cabinet meeting on November 5 is now being told that the level of overspend now represents a financial risk on the medium term - rated as 'high'.

But councillor will hear that the shedding of staff has not yet finished and could yet account for more savings; that the social services review, currently underway, should maintain staffing levels, improve services and still save £1million a year; and that the council has not, as yet, concluded its review of the properties it owns, which may also result in as yet, unspecified, additional income.

Other reviews are also underway, including how the council buys goods and services, which may also result in savings.

The biggest overspend of all is attributed to children’s services which accounts for a possible £8.6million overspend at the end of the year, more than 13 per cent above budget. Despite hopes than the number of children looked after by the council would go down – they have actually increased by 31 and now stand at 444 in total.

Spending on adult social care is also up, for similar reasons. It is forecast to be overspent by £208,000, mainly on staffing costs with an additional £604,000 overspend on commissioning items which help people stay in their homes for longer, and other services.

Both social services and the payments for children of school age with additional needs are demand-led, making it difficult for the authority to predict accurately its spending in these areas. The problems has been compounded by Government support for the council not keeping up with demand.

Cllr Nick Ireland said the figures were disappointing, but not a surprise: "We now have a situation where the combined overspends in Adult and Child Services (approaching £14m) are greater than the savings estimated from ‘transformation’ – and these savings won’t even be realised for at least another year whilst in the interim we are still meeting the bill arising from moving to a unitary authority.

"Successive governments have failed to acknowledge the issues and associated costs to local authorities in providing statutory services and until the funding Dorset Council receives reflects that reality, the situation will only get worse.

"We are limited in what we can raise in local taxes due to the council tax increase ceiling and hence I can foresee yet more service reductions being made to the few remaining non-statutory functions we provide to our residents.

"With a general election if the offing, let’s hope we have a new government which recognises and addresses the inequitable funding that Dorset has historically been given."