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Action needed on children's services funding writes Royal Borough leader

Action against the pressures of child services funding needs to be taken by central government, the Royal Borough leader has said.

Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) has sent a letter to Damian Hinds MP, the Education Secretary, calling for a review into the level of funding councils receive to run the services.

The letter follows a council report, released last month, which showed there had been an overspend of £911,000 in children’s services.

This was due to ‘the number of placements for children in care outside of the local authority area in independent fostering and residential care’, the report states.

In his letter, Cllr Dudley mentioned the Local Government Association’s estimate that councils face a £2billion shortfall for funding children’s services provision by 2020.

He added the shortfall comes from ‘increasing costs of residential care and independent fostering placements and the hike in costs charged by agencies to supply essential qualified workers’.

“As a small unitary authority we are sensitive to the overall marketplace and a 28 per cent increase in the price of residential placements since 2015/16 has seen our budget spiral inexorably upwards,” he wrote.

Cllr Dudley told the Express that the borough is ‘run efficiently’ but added ‘there are clearly other local authorities that are clearly struggling’.

Conservative-controlled Northamptonshire County Council is reportedly considering cuts to its children’s services following a financial crisis there.

Cllr Dudley also referenced the changes made to how adult social care is funded in the letter. Councils can now raise extra cash through council tax, known as the adult social care levy.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Between 2016 and 2020 Maidenhead and Windsor Borough Council will receive more than £340million to spend on local services, including children’s social care. Alongside this, we are investing £270m in programmes specifically aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable children.”

She added that the Royal Borough received £19m for high needs – provision for students with special education needs and disabilities aged up to 25 – and said the council will have £87.6m to spend on services in 2019/20, which is up £1.4m from 2015/16.

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