Cardiff Liberal Democrats have expressed shock and alarm after Cardiff Council's social services department revealed a dire financial situation.
The department, the largest of its kind in Wales, told Councillors it already anticipated missing nearly half its planned savings, despite being only three months into the current financial year.
The latest news follows on from a massive £5.4m overspend by the Adult Social Services department in the previous twelve months. The failure to control budgets contributed to cut backs in other parts of Council spending and a 5% hike in Council Tax.
Despite its failure to control budgets last year, the Labour controlled Council proposed additional investment into the department to support the most vulnerable, whilst also identifying £8,657,000 of savings.
"During budget negotiations at the start of the year," said Cllr Joseph Carter, Lib Dem spokesperson on Health, Housing and Social Services, "councillors from across the political spectrum asked social services and finance officers if savings on such a scale were realistic.
"We were assure they were."
Now, however, at a scrutiny meeting on 8th July, Labour cabinet member, Cllr Susan Elsmore, revealed that out of £8,657,000 of proposed savings, £3,948,000 would not be met.
“It is astonishing," said Cllr Carter, "how savings that were presented as credible three months ago when the budget was set now appear completely unrealistic.
“We welcome the recent appointment of a new Director of Social Services and challenge him to carry a full review of his department.
"One of his first jobs must be to get a grip on his department's finances.”
The latest revelations are a political embarrassment for the Labour administration and their leader Cllr Phil Bale.
Bale faced a vote of no confidence following a shambolic budget process during which members of his own party broke out into open revolt.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central, said: "We are starting to see the consequences of Labour's pathetic internal feuding.
"Phil Bale has spent so long fighting his own party, he has taken his eye off ball when it comes to departmental spending.
"This is a failure of scrutiny and challenge and the blame ultimately rests with him. The flaws in his budget are now becoming apparent.
“I want to ensure that people’s care packages or day support are not cut back in order to balance the books.
"Providing care and support for the most vulnerable is one of the most important functions of a council, but it needs to be based on sound budget management.
"I doubt whether the political leadership of this Council has the competence to provide that.”