Bucks cabinet member for children's services defends ‘doomed’ and ‘catastrophic’ budget

Warren Whyte, Bucks County Council's cabinet member for children's services
Warren Whyte, Bucks County Council's cabinet member for children's services

Bucks County Council's cabinet member for children's services has hit back at claims this year’s major overspend in the failing children’s services is 'catastrophic.'

Fellow councillors questioned whether the budget was 'doomed' during budget scrutiny meetings at Bucks County Council this week.

Children's services cabinet member Warren Whyte was quizzed on financial plans for 2019/20 as children's services faces a £10 million overspend due to rising demand.

Directing his question at Cllr Whyte, councillor for The Risboroughs, Bill Bendyshe Brown, asked why the past year’s spending was “catastrophically” higher than what was predicted in the budget.

The rising number of children taken into care, as well as an increase in cases relating to domestic violence, drugs and alcohol misuse and mental illness have all contributed to pressures within children’s services.

Councillor for Tylers Green and Loudwater David Shakespeare said children’s services chiefs need to “get to grips” with exactly why more young people are being taken into care.

He asked if there are any plans to help tackle the issue, or if the council is “doomed to accepting the budget will grow endlessly forever without resolution?”

Cllr Whyte insisted the overspend is not “catastrophic” and said the council is striving to improve children’s services.

He said: “The local government association estimates that nationwide there’s going to be a £2 billion pressure on local government in children’s services by 2020 if we carry on the way we are doing it.

“I don’t agree with that figure, I think it is contentious, but I think it does highlight the pressure on children’s services nationwide.

“On a local level I think we need to do a lot of things smarter, clever and better than we have done before.”

Health and wellbeing leaders were then put under the spotlight – as councillors raised concerns over the predicted overspend of £2.3 million.

Finance director for communities, health and adult social care, Bev Winter, said the service’s budget is “very volatile”, however assured members work is being undertaken to identify exactly what is causing pressures within the budget.

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Lin Hazell added: “Given the financial challenges facing social care nationally, we need to make sure our services are modern and sustainable.

“This year we developed our better lives strategy and this strategy sets out how we will change the way we do things to support people to live fulfilled lives, avoid dependence on formal social care services where possible and to stay independent for longer.”