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Council's savings target hit by rise in children's services spending
COUNCIL bosses in Worcestershire still need to cut £6.4 million by April – but are being hampered by spiralling costs in helping vulnerable children.
Ahead of next year’s plan to shed spending by a record £30 million, Worcestershire County Council is still millions short of cutting back enough in 2013/14 to balance the books.
Your Worcester News can reveal how £15.1 million has been cut over the last six months, but another £6.4 million is needed by the spring before it can start the huge savings plan ahead.
A new report on the council’s finances reveals how an extra £2.5 million is now forecast to be spent on children’s social care in the current financial year.
With more than 600 children under some kind of care provision, the costs are already £800,000 up on the target, mainly because many youngsters are staying in the care system longer than expected.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, says he is still confident the budget will come in on target by next year.
“We have got a large overspend on the children’s services budget but I still think we are on track for the year,” he said.
“There is still £6.4 million of savings we’ve got to achieve by the end of the year but we’re confident the budget will come in a satisfactory way.
“In many ways we appear to be exactly where we thought we’d be.”
County Hall says all children’s care placements are now under review to make sure their ‘leaving dates’ are accurately forecast, so that more funds can be pumped into next year’s budget if need be.
It comes amid major plans to shed an extra £25 million from spending over the next four years due to serious demographic pressures and the public sector spending squeeze.
Coun Peter McDonald, the opposition Labour group leader, said: “The budgets that so many departments are being given are just not realistic.
“They are looking to make excuses, saying, ‘We are spending too much we’ve got to get it under control’ – if we had proper budgets these so-called ‘overspends’ would not occur.”