By Nick Golding
Adult social care is the biggest single area of savings in councils' 2005 efficiency statements, making up 17% of total savings.
In 1993, local government was given the responsibility of ensuring elderly and disabled inhabitants received residential or nursing care. Councils inherited an area of expenditure that, according to Tony Hunter, the president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, was accelerating out of control.
Mr Hunter said the savings found in annual efficiency statements must be viewed in the context of a series of other efficiency drives to restrain spending in recent years, such as the drive to increase value for money inspired by the Atkinson review into the productivity of public spending.
'In adult social care we face the future with four times as many people in need - and there's no way we'll get four times the money. Our track record demonstrates that,' he said. 'We'll shift resources from residential help towards carer help.'
Among the biggest savers in adult social care is Sheffield City Council, which anticipates an efficiency gain of£2.7m by shifting resources from supporting a small number of people with high dependency at high cost towards early intervention.
Other areas leading the drive to cut costs
As with adult social services, children's services departments are striving to increase efficiency by reducing the use of costly residential care homes.
Among the best performers was Plymouth City Council, which made up one-third of its total Gershon savings in children's services. It boosted its foster care system, reviewed all independent sector placements and imposed a recruitment freeze on admin staff.
Efficiency savings on social housing in England are set for£61.5m.
Savings will be met through increased investment in repairs, with a reduction in legal fees, reallocating work from consultants to permanent staff, chasing rent arrears, improving procurement and creating partnerships for maintenance.
Leeds City Council, set for the biggest savings of more than£5.8m, has asked its arms length management organisation to identify 2.5% efficiency savings as part of its business planning cycle.
Efficiencies have been found in non-school educational budgets by cutting private sector facilities for challenging pupils.
Among the big savers are North East Lincolnshire Council and Medway Council.
What you said
'In adult social care we face the future with four times as many people in need - and there's no way we'll get four times the money. Our track record demonstrates that.'
Tony Hunter, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services
'The main thing we're doing is investing in developing more cost effective services within Cheshire.'
John Townsend, county policy manager for adult and community services, Cheshire CC