£5.5m funding proposals for children in Stoke-on-Trent

A public consultation has been launched by Stoke-on-Trent Council on proposals to fund a £5.5 million redirection of cash to children’s services.

The proposals would enable the city council to prioritise significant investment in children in the region, following an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted earlier this year. It also follows an unprecedented demand for children’s social care services, with the council reporting that the number of children in care has increased to 890 in recent months at the same time as cuts in funding.

The consultation, which will close at the end of September, proposes a range of measures to allow the funding to be re-directed, including: a review of council staffing that could see a net reduction of 248 jobs overall including 86 vacant posts; transformation of services with a view to delivering even more effectively and efficiently; controls on all non-essential spending on areas such as recruitment and travel; and reviewing contracts and continuing to identify alternative funding sources and additional income.

The proposals build on a budget which already sees £17 million in savings being made in 2019/20 and £194 million of savings made across the city council in the last eight years.

Abi Brown, council leader, said: “The recent Ofsted inspection highlighted the urgent need to make children’s services and protecting our vulnerable young people our number one priority. From day one of our administration, we have been clear that this will be our main focus. As a cabinet, we are committed to ensuring that improvement and investment in children’s services go hand in hand, and these mid-year proposals will allow us to re-direct necessary funding so that we can make this happen.

“The funding issues facing all councils are well known, and Stoke-on-Trent City Council is not alone in this challenge of ensuring that we can effectively support the most vulnerable within our communities against a backdrop of increasing demand and tightening funding. Providing just one day’s worth of social care for children, adults with learning disabilities and older people costs £400,000.

“As a council with good financial management at its centre, we have to understand and adapt to emerging risks and demands no matter how challenging. We are a well-managed council delivering a strong economy, bringing quality jobs and businesses to the city, new and affordable housing and improving schools, but we have to prioritise and accelerate investment in children in the city. These are tough decisions to make but we have to press ahead with these proposals so that we can meet the real and significant demands on our services now. This investment in children is absolutely the right thing to do. This is about taking responsible and immediate action to meet our legal duty to deliver a balanced budget.”