South Gloucestershire Council will now write to the district’s Conservative MPs outlining the financial pressures currently facing its children’s services, following a row over whether this had already been agreed.
Back in September, the council’s Children & Young People’s Committee received a monitoring report on the children’s services budget which showed pressures leading to overspends in a large number of areas, including fostering and adoption costs, residential placements, special educational needs transport and agency staff. Labour councillor Ian Boulton had suggested at that time that this should be brought to the attention of the district’s three Tory MPs in the hope that they would communicate this up to the government. Although this suggestion was generally agreed, the Conservatives later claimed that the decision had not been sufficiently formal and the letter was not sent.
Yesterday the Committee received the latest budget update which showed that the pressures within children’s services had worsened by £380,000 since the September report, with the department now headed for a £1.5 million overspend against the budget agreed for the year. In response, Labour proposed a formal motion that the Director should now write to the MPs detailing the pressures. This firm proposal was approved by the Committee with a split amongst the Conservative councillors which saw a number of them vote for the motion.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Gareth Manson (Woodstock ward) said:
“Two successive budget monitors have shown that our council’s children’s services face a financial cliff edge, with demand outstripping our available resources in a large number of areas. The government and its local supporters must be told of the effect of its cuts on the ground. I am pleased that the Children & Young People’s Committee has agreed to communicate our concerns to the district’s three MPs, and that there is no longer any confusion as to whether we have made that decision.”