Dorset County Council unlikely to find £6M in savings by end of March

Dorset County Council unlikely to find £6M in savings by end of March

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:24am 11th March 2019.

There's been a large overspend in Children's Services.

Almost £6 million in savings at Dorset County Council is unlikely to be found by the time the authority is dissolved at the end of March.

Most of the amount is attributed to children’s services – as it has been throughout the year.

Figures to the end of January show a £6.5 million overspend in the department and £660,000 for adult services – although underspending in other areas bring the overall figure down to £3.34 million.

An additional £3.9 million, which may rise, is being attributed to an overspend on children and young people with additional needs within the education budgets. Dorset, as elsewhere, has seen a larger than expected increase in children with Education Health and Care Plans – an increase of over 50 per cent from the April 2016 total of 1,594.

Children with a care plan often need additional support if they attend a mainstream school, some require a specialist school place, and many have additional travel needs, some requiring an escort, or specialist vehicle.

child with autism

Although the county council has provided additional special school and mainstream places for these pupils during the year these have already been filled by new demand.

A report to the county council audit and governance committee on March 11th says that while the number of children coming into the care of the council has stabilised at around 440 it has proved difficult to make further savings.

There has also been a increasing trend towards higher costs placements. One of the biggest risks identified is the number of vulnerable adolescents in high-cost residential units, almost all out of the county, where charges start at £4,000 per week. The county council has closed all but one of its own residential units for children.

Other overspent budgets include £720,000 on school transport for children with special educational needs – which is already the subject of a review, expected to report back to the new Dorset Council in the early summer.

Councillors at next week’s meeting will be told that making savings, after years of squeezing budgets, has become increasingly difficult: “The anticipation that nearly £5.7m of these savings will not be delivered is evidence of how difficult savings have proved after removing over £125m from the revenue budget in recent years,” says acting chief financial officer, Jim McManus in his report to councillors.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter

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