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Health Authorities (Finance)

Volume 124: debated on Friday 18 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services how many health authorities have not been able to fix a balanced budget position for the current financial year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the total current size of the reported deficit of the 14 regional health authorities in the present financial year; and what year-end total is implied by this figure if no additional cut-backs are made in expenditure.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimates he has of possible overspending in the current financial year by each of the regional health authorities; and what proposals he has to deal with this problem.

[holding answers 4 December and 16 December 1987]: The expenditure of health authorities, like that of Government Departments, is controlled in cash terms against cash limits. Regional health authorities' spending is therefore routinely monitored in cash terms. Regions are expected to maintain their spending within their cash limits this year. Under the normal conventions of Government accounting, authorities are expected to manage their working balances—that is, cash, stocks, debtors and creditors — at a sensible level. Regional health authorities are responsible for monitoring their districts' positions. The Department has not up to now routinely collected figures on the income and expenditure position of health authorities in-year, but the National Health Service management board has this autumn reviewed with regional health authorities their current estimates of total expenditure levels for this year on both cash and on an income and expenditure basis, in the latter case covering not only authorities' views on likely trends in their working balances, but also the extent to which continuing expenditure was being financed by short-term savings.As I announced in the House on 16 December, this monitoring revealed an immediate problem in the current year. In the light of this we have made an additional £75 million available to English health authorities, together with a further £13·3 million to offset the costs of damage caused by the severe weather on 16 October. Regular formal monitoring of the income and expenditure position of authorities is to be introduced.