More than £1.7million of proposed savings in county council services could be achieved by slowing down recruitment into vacant posts.

Savings, including £1m in adult and community services and £223,000 in children and young people’s services, would be made by redirecting money for recruiting under budget plans for 2023/24.

The budget proposals were considered at a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

The corporate director for adult and community services (ACS) said: “The current vacancy percentage in our department is seven per cent and it will rise to around 11 per cent under these plans.

“Our staffing budget is generally underspent every year, no matter how well we try to recruit and retain staff.

“We struggle as every local authority does to recruit frontline staff, particularly staff like social workers and occupational therapists. These are the areas where the vacancies lie and where the savings will come from.

“We do want more staff in these areas, but we are able to some extent manage with the staff we have.

“And we will still be able to get some people through the door in these areas without ending up with an overspend.

“If our recruitment efforts yield more than we expect, we would adjust this accordingly.”

Another officer explained that at the end of September this year, the expected underspend in the ACS staffing budget was £2.6m.

This budget has been underspent by more than £1m over the past five years.

The savings on staffing in children and young people’s services are to be made in business support, the multi-agency safeguarding hub for children and adults at risk of harm and abuse, and safeguarding.

According to officers, these are areas where there are already significant vacancy rates.

Bury Mercury: James Reeder, cabinet member for children and young people's services Picture: Suffolk County CouncilJames Reeder, cabinet member for children and young people's services Picture: Suffolk County Council (Image: Suffolk County Council)

James Reeder, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “We have decided to keep savings in specific recruitment areas because we recognise the importance of staffing.

“I think the team has done the best we can to make savings where we can.”

The other departments with proposed budgets that include savings on recruitment are growth, highways and infrastructure, and corporate services. These would amount to £150,000 and £380,000 respectively.

Approval by the full council will be needed before the budget is implemented from April.