COUNCIL chiefs are predicting an overspend of nearly £10 million in East Ayrshire's budget - just halfway through the financial year.

East Ayrshire Council's finance chief Joe McLachlan painted a stark picture of council finances at a meeting of the authority's on Wednesday.

Health and social care and school transport costs make up the bulk of the projected overspend of £9.25 million, Mr McLachlan said.

He pointed out that, in June, he had spoken about increasing demand and increasing cost and that this would continue into the current financial year,

He added: “The report before you continues that theme and highlights that services are likely to overspend by around £9m.”

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Health and social care services account for around £4m of that overspend.

Mr McLachlan pointed out that, under the East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), those services had received considerable Covid funding up until April this year.

“While the impact of Covid on the services is lessening to some extent," he said, "other long-standing challenges, particularly those in social care where costs are rising to support an ageing population, are again coming to the fore.”

Mr McLachlan said the HSCP was working to utilise all available funding, including reserves, while taking steps to redesign and reshape services to reduce that overspend by the end of the financial year.

The council’s education service accounts for another £4m of the predicted overspend, with costs attributed to early years (£1.6m)  and additional support needs education (£2m).

The largest portion of the ASN overspend comes from additional transport costs at £1.6m.

The report stated that a review of early years work was underway, including an assessment of the demand for the services for future planning.

Other services with significant project overspend include community and economy services (£1.3m), facilities and property management (£600,000), housing and communities (£600,000) and Ayrshire Roads Alliance (£200,000).

Mr McLachlan said the Ayrshire Roads Alliance projection "masks a range of issues" - and that the overspend projection takes account of the £500,000 cost of providing primary and secondary school transport.

He continued: “In order to bring that service back online the service is reviewing expenditure and roads infrastructure.”

The finance chief added that all of the reviews being carried out by services were largely a result of increased demand and additional costs, and were being undertaken ‘at pace’.

Council leader Douglas Reid said that it was important to understand the consequences of factors such as the pandemic and Brexit in order to get the budget ‘back in line’.

Mr McLachlan said that his service was already looking at the budget requirement for 2024/25.