Clash in City Chambers after Labour leader warns council overspend could create “serious situation”

Labour group leader Kevin Keenan.

Dundee City councillors will have to wait until next month before officers will spell out how they aim to claw back the local authority’s predicted overspend of more than £4 million.

A report presented to the city council’s policy and resources committee last night showed that, at the end of July, the council’s projected overspend was an estimate £4.1 million.

The bulk of that – around £3.5m – has been attributed to the children and families services department.

Director Paul Clancy said this was largely down to the introduction of legislation that allows young people to remain in care until the age of 21.

Committee convener and administration leader councillor John Alexander said the overspend had already been reduced by £1.5m since July and councillors would be given a full report on measures being taken to improve the balance sheet in October.

He criticised Labour members for politicising the “necessity” of looking after vulnerable children as the costs of doing so would inevitably fluctuate.

© DC Thomson
John Alexander.

Mr Alexander said: “I am disappointed to see such a political attack on such an issue. I would hope we would work together, not just in terms of the overspend but on working for our young people.”

But Labour group leader Kevin Keenan warned the overspend could harm the council’s ability to provide other services.

He said: “We are in a situation where we have just £1 million in reserve.

“With resources that low, if anything else goes wrong we are in a serious situation.”

His Labour colleague, Michael Marra, laid the blame at the Scottish Government’s door.

He said that an Audit Scotland report had said that, after budget cuts, the second biggest pressure on local government finances is “underfunded policies from the Scottish Government”.

Mr Marra added: “We are entirely supportive of these resources being used to help children but a council not running its finances properly is of no use to the children of this city.”

The Lochee councillor also warned the administration not to find the savings by leaving teaching posts unfilled.

His comments were blasted by children and families services convener Gregor Murray who tweeted during the meeting: “Utterly disgusted by Cllr Marra’s suggestion that we aren’t employing teachers to make savings. We’re making every effort to fill every post.”

Mr Alexander said a report would be published next month detailing what action is being taken to address the overspend but agreed to increase the regularity of revenue and capital reports to once a month.

Mr Keenan’s amendment calling for a report from the director of corporate services on the overspend was defeated by 16 votes to 10.