There are significant challenges still to overcome before RMBC regains public confidence and trust. Children’s services will remain under the power of commissioners, led by Sir Derek Myers. They were appointed in 2015 after a damning report by Louise Casey, director general of the Troubled Families Programme, found senior staff were either incapable of or unwilling to solve problems. You would think that after two damning reports and mass resignations the New and Improved Leader of RMBC -Cllr.Chris Read-and the Labour controlled council would have made every effort in 2015 to try and keep spending under tight control before reality stared them in the face.
The council’s budget position was understated because prior to the Commissioners arriving, the council had hoped that overspending on children’s placements might be balanced out by underspending elsewhere in children’s services. This has proved a false expectation and indeed, together with the overrunning in adult social care budget, has contributed to an overall projected overspend for the year of £12 million.
When you draw up a budget the words ‘hope’ and ‘guesstimate’ are never included (not by intelligent people) and to shuffle money from one pot to another where the care and welfare of children is concerned is nothing short of lunacy. There are also fundamental weaknesses in the council’s fostering and adoption services and residential homes.
As a result of RMBC’s long term inability to get a grip with (mis) managing public money Lead Commissioner Sir Derek Myers, recognising the looming shortfall, had to put a business case to the DCLG for extra money. The DCLG handed over £5.2 million. The extra funding “will work to address the weaknesses in our children’s services at a time when the council’s overall budget is again being reduced”, said council leader Chris Read. He added: “The funding will overwhelmingly be spent on managing the extra costs we face at the moment in keeping children safe – more social workers with lower caseloads, and reform of the service. It’s a vote of confidence in the measures we are taking to improve services.”
In a nutshell, the previous council-including Chris Read who has been a councillor since May 2011-borrowed hundreds of £millions, turned a blind eye to CSE, was heavily criticised as ‘Not Fit for Purpose’ and taken over by government appointed commissioners are still not trustworthy enough to run and manage Childrens Services or our money.
A simple internet search shows there are numerous councils who have managed to save money without cutting or reducing the budgets for young and vulnerable people.
Why does RMBC find it so difficult?