Bradford Council faces £32m overspend this financial year – Telegraph and Argus

BRADFORD Council still faces a £32million overspend this financial year as it emerged that its reserves are dropping at an “unsustainable rate”.
The Council’s fourth quarter financial report shows that budgets are under pressure and the department that continues to face the biggest overspend is the Children’s Services department.
This is down to high placement costs and high levels of agency staff, resulting in an expected £30.5m overspend in that department alone.
Despite the high figures involved, it is an improvement from the position in October when the expected overspend across the Council was £45m.
A report going to Bradford Council’s Executive next Tuesday says that the situation in Children’s Services is down to the rising number of children in care and the cost of placements which have “risen dramatically”, as well as the use of agency social workers due to a shortage of Council social workers, currently running at £2.1m a month.
The average cost of a place has risen from £3,600 a week in 2020-21 to £5,100 now, in addition to the number of children requiring care rising by 69 per cent in recent years, compared to 29 per cent regionally.
In February the Council was making use of 211 agency social workers and while every effort is being made to recruit permanent staff, the number of Council staff leaving in the past year has exceeded the number of new recruits by ten.
Currently 46 per cent of children’s social workers in Bradford are agency staff – compared to much lower numbers in neighbouring authorities.
Of the use of agency social workers, the report states: ”In addition to demonstrating that agency use is particularly acute in Bradford, the table also demonstrates that agency use has reduced from high levels in other West Yorkshire Councils that have also previously been assessed as inadequate (Kirklees & Wakefield), suggesting that there is clear scope for Bradford to follow a similar trajectory over time.”
Children’s Services is also due to be taken on by an arm’s length Children’s Trust in April, which will be run independently from the Council.
On the matter of reserves, the report indicates that at total of £100.3m of reserves have already been drawn upon this financial year, meaning the remaining amount has fallen to £128m.
At the end of the financial year, any overspend – which is currently forecast to be £32m – will need to be funded from reserves to balance the books.
It adds: “The 2022-23 year end reserves are currently forecast to be sufficient to cover the needs of the 2023- 24 budget only, and reserves are reducing at an unsustainable rate.”
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