BUDGET predictions for Dorset Council's adult and children's services need to be improved as they are annually underestimated, according to Dorchester councillor Richard Biggs.

He says that each year the authority’s predictions for spending in that area seem to be out of line with reality, having to be 'topped up' towards the end of the financial year.

“Our business as usual seems to be to underestimate demand. We seem to put in the minimum each year,” he told a meeting of the audit and governance committee.

“Something seems to be fundamentally wrong with our modelling.”

His comments come after previous decisions to top up overspends, running into millions of pounds, on both adult and children’s services budgets.

He was told by executive director for corporate development Aidan Dunn that budget forecasting, especially for social care, was a complicated business, which started by looking at local demographics and expected demand and trends, including the complexity of needs.

Dorset Echo: Councillor Richard Biggs during the online meetingCouncillor Richard Biggs during the online meeting

“We do want, and we do need, to get better. It’s an area we are concentrating on but it is complex. We have been talking to other local authorities to see how they do it, to see if we can learn from them. We haven’t got it as strong as we need to get it, yet. It’s more of an art than a science,” he said.

Interim Corporate Director for Adult Social Care, Gill Vickers, said the long-term answer was to put more into preventative work, supporting more people to live independent lives in the community, avoiding, or delaying the need to care by the council.

She said that a strength-based approach was being developed to tap into the support of friends and family and to then for the council to try and fill in the gaps in provision of care.

“What it will do eventually is to slow down the care of people coming into adult social care,” she said.