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Westminster’s ‘chronic underfunding’ of education impacting on Suffolk County Council finances

PUBLISHED: 19:45 07 November 2018

Suffolk County Council is facing a £7.5m overspend for 2018/19 Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council is facing a £7.5m overspend for 2018/19 Picture: ARCHANT

“Chronic underfunding” of education by the government has been blamed for a council’s overspending on children’s services.

Richard smith said the overspend would come down further still before the end of the financial year, but would not be eradicated entirely Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILRichard smith said the overspend would come down further still before the end of the financial year, but would not be eradicated entirely Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

A report presented to Suffolk County Council’s cabinet on Thursday revealed it is on course to overspend by £7.5million by the end of the financial year – down from the predicted £8.6m overspend reported following the first three months of the year.

The latest figures showed children’s services accounted for £4.9m of that overspend – at least £2m of which was because of soaring demand for special education places.

But Richard Smith, cabinet member for finances at the Conservative-run council said that while lessons had been learnt, neglect from central government had not helped.

Asked if the recent announcements in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget had helped, Mr Smith said: “It’s marginal.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams has been critical of the county council's management of finances Picture: GREGG BROWNLabour group leader Sarah Adams has been critical of the county council's management of finances Picture: GREGG BROWN

“I think there is a little bit more money from the chancellor’s announcement but the problem of chronic underfunding of children’s services really hasn’t been addressed very much at all.”

Mr Smith said the council was “moving in the right direction” but warned that while the predicted year-end overspend will come down further, it will not be eradicated entirely.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education pointed to the huge demand for special education needs, which is expected to soar by a further 18% in the next two years, as being behind his department’s overspend.

Mr Smith said ambitious targets for the council’s wholly-owned companies had not come to fruition, for which lessons had been learnt.

It is already expected that £25m of cutbacks will be seen in next year’s budget.

Opposition Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: “The Tory administration were hoping that Phillip Hammond would throw them a lifeline and the message that austerity was over was more than just words, but they have been left high and dry by their Chancellor.

“Instead, the Tories have shown their true colours. Whilst planning a wholesale bonfire of public services they are going to put £10m into reserves. This callous action means that learning disability budgets, specialist social workers and the council’s children in care responsibilities are likely to be squeezed over the coming months.”

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