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Children's services trust's finances a worry says Slough council cabinet

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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  • Warrior

    17:05, 10 October 2019

    They have overspent because they are not fit for purpose. They are chaotic & incompetent. Their focus has always been budget lead rather than need lead. This ongoing lack of meeting needs since they have been in place has led to a spike in legal costs & complaints. The current overspend this year was an attempt for them to impress Ofsted and appear that they are running a good service. The reality is different. You need to speak to service users and get their perspective of the service offered by the Trust. They need to stop overpaying incompetent social workers and reduce the amount of high paid senior managers, who quite frankly could organise a pi-s up in a brewery! Excuse the language. Too many chiefs (who can’t organise anything or make decisions) and not enough quality Indians. Bottom line children & families are suffering in Slough due to the ongoing chaos & incompetence of the Trust.

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