Pressure on children’s services forces Torbay to make cuts 

21 Aug 18

Torbay Council has become the latest local authority to hit financial troubles and has placed spending restrictions on all non-urgent expenditure.

A substantial increase in the number of children in care has forced the council to find ways of making up for a predicted £2.8m overspend in its budget for the last financial year.

Torbay has decided on a pre-emptive measure to avoid its financial troubles becoming worse. 

East Sussex County Council was revealed earlier this month to have done something similar, by producing a ‘core offer’ of essential services to provide the “best service offer we are likely to be able to afford”.

Northamptonshire so far remains the only council to have issued a Section 114 notice, which required it to freeze expenditure on all services except for those safeguarding vulnerable people. 

Steve Parrock, chief executive of the authority, said: “Torbay Council, like other authorities, continues to face significant financial challenges due to government funding cuts and increasing demands, particularly in social care, but our current situation is that we have not run out of money or used reserves.

“More difficult decisions will need to be made and we will continue to identify options, priorities and solutions to try to meet the expected future financial challenges.”

Parrock said while the increased demand for children’s services – which went up by 20% since November last year - was the main reason for the overspend it was also due to other pressures, such as larger than expected numbers of agency staff in key services.

The council put in place a moratorium on spending last week, meaning that even if a contract is budgeted for, it may be postponed or cancelled if it is not required to meet statutory duties.

Birmingham City Council’s auditors Grant Thornton also revealed earlier this month the council had spent £117m of its reserves in two years.

The auditing firm has issued a rare set of recommendations under section 24 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act – understood to be an early warning of financial mismanagement.

Local government experts recently raised concerns children’s services could suffer as a result of councils cutting back on spending, as they predicted they would not be able to deliver even the minimum level of service as required by law.

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