MORE THAN £9 million has been cut from Caerphilly council's social services budget in the last five years, a report has revealed.

The council say an ‘unprecedented period of ongoing austerity’ forced by UK Government, which has led to reduced Welsh Government funding, has led to cuts of £45.6 million between 2014/15 and 2017/18.

Officers are expecting increased demand on its social services team because of an ageing population and ‘increasingly complex and challenging needs’ of children and vulnerable adults.

But a report reveals that social services revenue budget cuts accounted for 17 per cent – £7.7 million – of total savings delivered across the authority during those four years.

A further £1.3 million has been cut from the 2018/19 budget, meaning more than £9 million has been cut from the council’s social services budget since 2014.

Mike Jones, the council’s interim financial services manager, wrote in the report: “The savings identified have been delivered through a combination of budget realignment, back office efficiencies and service redesign.

“[This] has had very little impact upon the services received by the public.”

But the cuts have had a significant impact on the social services workforce, with the equivalent of just under 5,000 staff hours per week lost within five years.

The council has now been warned that such cost-cutting methods have now become ‘exhausted’ and some ‘very difficult decisions’ lie ahead to deliver further savings.

Council tax for 2018/19 was increased by 4.52 per cent, which the council say helped to reduce a funding gap from £9.7 million to £6.7 million for the year.

A medium term financial plan presented to the council in February showed that £1.5 million must be invested into social services in each of the next four years.

With Welsh Government funding unlikely to increase, the council is also assuming a one per cent cut in 2019/2020 and a 0.5 per cent cut in each of the following three financial years to 2022/23.

This means that the council will need to deliver savings of £34 million if it is to afford ‘emerging financial pressures’ over the next four years.

The report says: “Any saving target set for the directorate [of social services] for the forthcoming four years must be viewed in the context of the £9 million of savings already delivered.

“Those savings were achieved through a combination of budget realignment, efficiency savings and service reviews.

“However, such options have now become exhausted, so it is likely that some very difficult decisions will be necessary in order to deliver any further savings.”

The report will go before the council’s health, social care and wellbeing scrutiny committee, on June 19.