ST Helens Council continues to face “significant” budget pressures as it looks to identify cuts over the next two years, a new report has said.

The council’s budget and performance monitoring report highlights the actions being taken to close the funding gap by the end of the financial year.

Cllr Anthony Johnson, cabinet member for corporate services, presented the report to councillors.

He said: “We’re all doing our best but it’s very hard to meet the requirements of our budget as it currently stands because of the current level of cuts we’re all facing.”

In adult social care, it is expected there will be an underspend against the portfolio cash limit of approximately £2 million in 2017-18.

The report said the portfolio will make any savings that can be identified in the coming financial year.

A freeze on all vacant posts, subject to service priorities, has already been implemented – in line with other portfolios.

The report said additional funding of £4.480 million via the Improved Better Care Fund (iBCF) has enabled the portfolio to mitigate the budgetary pressures.

It said the portfolio will seek to use additional funding identified by the Government to support adult social care.

The portfolio is also projecting a pressure of £462,000 in relation to services for the frail elderly.

Costs associated with permanent nursing placements are also projected to be greater than originally budgeted for, reflecting an increasing trend over the past few months.

Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care and health, praised staff working in the care sector that are facing “unprecedented challenges”.

She said: “It’s truly remarkable when we look around the City Region and further afield at the challenges that other authorities are having and compare what St Helens is actually delivering now.

“All of our staff need to be congratulated because there isn’t one area within this authority that isn’t under significant pressure be it its capacity to deliver or the funding available.”

The report also highlighted a number of pressures on children’s services.

The number of children looked after as at the end of December 2017 was 447.

This has put a financial pressure of £4.32 million on the council in respect of fostering, residential and other associated costs for looked after children.

A further £254,000 has been allocated in relation to family support packages to reduce the likelihood of children and young people being brought into care.

An underspend of £158,000 is projected in the current financial year arising from employee slippage, which in part arises from action taken to limit non-social worker recruitment in this service area.

In addition, an underspend of £40,000 is forecast for home care support for children with disabilities based on the existing requirements of young people supported.

Cllr Derek Long, cabinet member for Liverpool City Region engagement, blamed central Government for the council’s financial woes.

He said: “It doesn’t have to happen. Think again Mrs May, think again.”