Children in care will be the next victims of savage cuts to local council funding, North-East leaders warned yesterday.
They raised the alarm over a planned 17 per cent reduction in grants for children’s services buried in the 2015/16 funding settlement – even bigger than the overall cuts.
And they warned it would punish the North-East hardest, as the region has the joint highest number of children in care, after a sharp rise over the last five years.
For every 10,000 youngsters in the region, 81 are in local authority accommodation or the subject of care orders – up from 61 per 1,000 as recently as 2009.
It puts the North-East on a par with the North-West, while the figures are much lower in Yorkshire (65), London (54), the South-East (48) and elsewhere.
In Durham (91 per 1,000) and Newcastle (101 per 1,000) the figures are even higher, according to the Association of North-East Councils (ANEC).
Speaking at Westminster, Simon Henig, Durham’s Labour leader and ANEC’s chairman, said:
“We have seen a big increase in pressures in this area – and the amount of Government funding has been cut significantly – but local authorities have filled the gap, by raiding money from elsewhere.
The warning came as ANEC – in partnership with major urban authorities – launched a fresh blast at the “unfair” 2015-16 funding settlement.
They ridiculed the Government’s claim of an average 1.8 per cent cut in funding, arguing the true figure was close to ten per cent in the North-East – a total grant reduction of around £240m.
“This level of reduction has dramatic and damaging consequences for councils’ ability to fund statutory services such as children’s and adult social care.”
And Kevan Jones, the North Durham Labour MP, said:
“This Government has directed cash to areas not in the dire need that we are in the North-East.”
However, there were signs of future tensions with Labour, which will not halt next year’s cuts if it wins May’s general election and has made only vague promises of a “fairer formula”.
ANEC warned such a scheme “potentially allocates extra resources to wealthy and business-rich parts of the London and South-East”.
Source – Northern Echo, 14 Jan 2015