01:00PM, Friday 20 September 2019
The finances of Slough’s children’s services group are cause for concern, the council’s deputy leader told cabinet members on Monday.
Cllr Sabia Hussain (Lab, Elliman) said Slough Children’s Services Trust’s projected overspend is ‘a serious situation’.
A report sent to cabinet members shows the trust was budgeted at £27million for 2019-20 but is now projected to spend £30.7m – an increase of £3.7m or 13.7 per cent.
The document also shows the trust has an existing deficit of £4.3m.
“It was a quite a surprise to many of us,” Cllr Hussain said at the Observatory meeting in Windsor Road. I am absolutely concerned about the size of the children’s service’s trust’s overspend and the deficit. I am absolutely concerned about the impact this has on all council services.”
She noted that the trust is independent, set up on government instructions, and the council has ‘no operational control over its spend’. The council has one member on the trust’s board.
The Local Government Association was asked to conduct a full financial review ‘so that we can better understand the reasons for the overspend’, she added, and urgent talks have been held with the Department for Education.
The report states that the trust said increases in staffing, placement and legal costs are to blame for the overspend thanks to a spike in referrals towards the end of last year and January.
But Cllr Hussain said the council’s overall financial position is healthy and said: “We are a well-run council and a well-managed local authority.”
“I am not quite sure how it slid off its rails,” council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) said, characterising the news as an ‘unpleasant early Christmas present’.
Cllr Pavitar K Mann (Lab, Britwell and Northborough) said the council would not ‘bend over’ for any other council service that needed a huge injection of more money.
“This really cannot continue,” Cllr Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows) said.
Cllr Hussain said she wanted to look again at how the trust is governed, including the option of Slough Borough Council getting ‘more seats at the table’.
A spokesman for the trust said: “Like many children’s services across the country, Slough Children’s Services Trust is facing significant financial challenges and is forecast to be £3.7m overspent this financial year.
“This follows increased demand for services for children.
“We are also working with our partners, including the council, the DfE and LGA, to improve our situation, as we continue to focus on making vulnerable children in Slough safe, secure and successful.”
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