Our cabinet agreed to consult on the proposed changes at a meeting on 1 February 2024.
In common with authorities across the country, we're facing budgetary pressures far greater than experienced before, due to factors beyond our control. These include dealing with higher than anticipated inflation and higher prices for fuel, energy and materials, meeting the cost of the national pay award set nationally but met locally, and the continued unprecedented increase in demand for vital adults’ and children’s social care services.
As well as a current forecast overspend for 2023 to 2024 of £34.1 million, we have a predicted shortfall of around £40 million in our budget for the year ahead (2024 to 2025) which has resulted in the savings proposals being put forward.
The changes are needed in order to support us setting a balanced budget. Around £3.9 million needs to be saved from the early help service and children’s centre budgets.
The early help teams and children’s centres provide a range of services for children and their families. The buildings are used by our teams to provide specific groups and activities for the families they are working with. The buildings are also used by other organisations to provide support to children and families as well as the wider community.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Councillor Julie Patten, said:
“We have always prided ourselves on being a prudent, financially stable and well-managed council, balancing our books from year to year, maintaining a strong level of reserves and keeping council tax as low as possible, while providing vital, value-for-money services for our residents.
“However, we have made no secret of the fact that we are facing pressures like never before, and this is particularly acute in the services we provide for children and families. Demand for social care support for children and spiralling costs of private placements, that we have no control over, is costing the council dearly. Other councils are experiencing the same issues.
“We have to do everything we can to make sure we balance our books and ensure we continue to provide services to support the most vulnerable children. This means that we have no choice but to put forward these proposals which, if agreed, could help us to achieve that.
“We are proposing that we carry on delivering those services we have to legally, and also providing some direct help for families that need our help the most.
“I’d urge anyone currently using these services, and those organisations who also provide services for children and families to let us know their views by filling in our online questionnaire.”
Visit the early help and children's centres review questionnaire. The consultation closes on 24 March 2024.