National and Devolved Politics

07.06.18

Struggling Somerset council plans to boost children’s services budget

Children’s services and children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) will be given more budget focus as part of Somerset Council’s meeting next week.

The authority’s board papers, due to be discussed at their Cabinet meeting on 11 June, say that the authority overspent £2.2m of its budget, meaning the majority of council services either stayed within budget or delivered an underspend.

The Conservative-controlled council rejected claims of bankruptcy last month after The Guardian claimed that a failure to balance the books could lead the council to collapse.

In May, reports surfaced of plans to scrap all six Somerset councils in a major merger that could save the county £28m a year. Council leaders have dubbed the merger as “unrealistic” and argued a unitary authority to protect district council services is “misplaced and just plain wrong.”

In its latest report, the council said that the minor overspend of 0.7% of the budget was a “significant achievement” given the pressures on budgets and the specific pressure within children’s social care.

“Key services such as children’s social care, adults social care and learning disabilities services have had to manage considerable increases in demand. This trend will continue for the 18/19 financial year. We need to be prepared to divert resources to support these areas of spend,” said the papers.

“The availability and use of reserves is critical in being able to manage spikes in demand and costs incurred. This must be balanced against the risk of other services coming under financial pressure.”

To improve services for children with SEND the area’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) has appointed a programme lead, due to start this month. The role will complement the designated medical officer for SEND and strengthen Health Commissioners’ partnership working to support children and young people with SEND.

Packs of information will be sent to all schools and academies to outline role roles and responsibilities relating to SEND and support/services available.

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Image credit: Neil Owen

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