The Executive of Bradford Council is scheduled to receive an update next week regarding the financial challenges confronting the Council.
On Wednesday, 21 December, the Bradford Council’s Executive will be informed that akin to numerous other local authorities, the Council is seeking Exceptional Financial Support to rectify the budgetary imbalance. Without this assistance, the issuance of a Section 114 notice will become necessary.
Since 2011, Bradford Council has had to identify savings exceeding £350 million, compelled by national austerity measures, inflation, and heightened demand. Recently, escalating inflation and energy costs have intensified fiscal pressure on all local authorities.
In recent years, Bradford has witnessed a substantial surge in the demand for children’s social care, marked by increasingly intricate cases, recruitment challenges, and difficulties in retaining social care personnel, all impacting budgetary allocations.
Between 2012 and 2022, the number of children in care soared by 61%, while the rate of children in need surged by over 60% in a comparable period. The cost of providing placements for children has escalated, with residential placements rising from an average cost of £3,600 per week per child in 2020-21 to an average of £6,000 per week in 2023. To provide context, this implies an average cost of £312,000 per placement per year, akin to the annual council subsidy for a small leisure centre.
The primary causes of budgetary strain in the Bradford Children and Families Trust (BCFT) are the necessity for costly residential care placements for children and the extensive use of agency social workers.
The council has already halted all non-essential spending, frozen non-essential recruitment, and initiated a comprehensive spending review. Collaborating with the children’s trust, the council is actively working to control and curtail costs, scrutinised reserves and the capital program, raise fees and charges, and commence a far-reaching transformation program.
The council is also engaged in discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) to secure financial support for the Bradford Children and Families Trust to guarantee the continuity of their improvement efforts.
As per the report, an anticipated expenditure of £246 million is projected for children’s social care alone this year, while Bradford Council aims to generate £233 million through council tax this year.
Bradford Council Leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe said; “Our finances, like many other across the country, are in a perilous position. We are being forced to look at all the services that we provide and make extremely difficult decisions and we know these will not be popular and will have an impact on our residents.
“The Bradford Children and Families Trust is led by a respected and experienced chief executive and I am calling on the government to make sure that is properly funded. We need the government to provide better funding for disadvantaged children across the children’s social care sector nationally. But specifically in Bradford we know that we have the youngest population in the country as well as a high level of social need. The Competitions and Markets Authority identified a dysfunctional market in which a small number of providers make excessive profits and Govt needs to address this urgently.
“In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor did not even mention the funding crisis faced by local council services and in particular he didn’t mention the word ‘children’ at all. There’s a huge gap in funding for children’s social care services across the country including here in Bradford.”
Budgetary proposals are scheduled for publication early next year.