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English councils overspend by over £800m struggling to meet children’s services demand

Local authorities across England are struggling to meet “escalating demand” from children’s services, the County Councils Network (CCN) has said.

New figures released today by the government has revealed that councils in England have overspent by a massive £816m to protect vulnerable children in the last financial year as demand for children’s services continues to rise.

Children’s services took the largest overspend, with councils around the country spending £264m more than they budgeted. Services for children’s and adult social care represent 65% of county authority’s budgets; higher than all other types of councils.

The soaring demands are compounded by funding pressures from central government amounting to a £3.2bn shortage of cash over the next two years alone.

Chairman of the CCN and leader of Kent County Council Cllr Paul Carter said the figures today “show the stark reality facing counties,” noting that authorities have little choice but to overspend millions on vital care services to protect the vulnerable and elderly.

He added: “In a climate of rising demand, inflation, and substantial funding reductions imposed by central government, counties have delivered extraordinary efficiencies, but without extra resource the worst is yet to come in service cutbacks to prevent such huge margins of overspend in statutory services.

“Overspending on certain services means that cuts will need to be made to other vital services, or taken from reserves. These two approaches are unsustainable.”

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said last year saw the biggest annual increase in children in care since 2010, and councils are now starting 500 child protection investigations every day.

“This rise in demand for child protection support,” he added, “means councils are increasingly only able to provide urgent help for children and families already at crisis point, leaving very little to invest in early intervention.”

“More and more councils are struggling to balance their books. The next Spending Review will be make or break for local services and must recognise the urgent need to tackle the funding gap facing local government.”

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Image credit: Giselleflissak


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