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Children's department's £500,000 monthly overspend?

Created on 08/11/2018 @ 08:52
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Fears have been raised that Powys County Council’s Children’s Services department could be overspending by an extra £500,000 every month.

Costs in the crisis hit department continue to rise with an extra £483,000 needed.

Calls were made at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, November 6, for the portfolio holder, Cllr Rachel Powell to meet councillors to explain the continuing increases.

In October 2017, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), now known as the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW), produced a damning inspection report into Children’s Services, which revealed missed opportunities to safeguard children, poor risk assessment and serious performance issues with frontline services.

In recent weeks inspectors have been back at the department to assess the situation a year on.

Following last year’s report, £6 million was pumped into the department to turn things around.

Another £6 million has been added to that.

The financial overview report for the situation at the end of September said: “Costs continue to escalate within Children’s Services with a projected overspend of £6.026 million for the year, an increase of £483,000 since that reported in August, due to an increased cost of placements, agency staff and legal fees.”

To turn things around there are 14 extra members of staff above the maximum, but the report adds that “many posts” are covered by costly agency staff.

This means that the overspend position of PCC has now increased from £7.9 million to £8.676 million.

Historic saving of £2.2 million that the department was expected to make before the crisis, are now expected to be wiped out.

Audit chairman, Cllr John Morris, said: “The underlying strain on the budget remains the same from August to September and in fact, it’s increased in Children’s Services by £500,000 in one month.

“It’s important these issues are addressed and that you (cabinet) are managing that. We really need to understand that there’s adequate financial control in that specific area.

“If you are increasing by £500,000 a month that will bring a significant risk to the council.”

Cllr Morris called for an “informal conversation” with Children’s Services portfolio holder Cllr Rachel Powell and the Director of Social Services Ali Bullman to reassure the Audit Committee on these issues.

Cllr Powell said: “We are more to content to meet with you, so that you can understand the pressures, especially with agency staff. In view to moving forward, we have to be realistic to what Children’s Services can contend within view to functioning properly.”

Cllr Powell explained that internal pressures were being addressed with numerous strategies being put into place to turn things around.

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