Labour has criticised significant cuts to services supporting vulnerable children in the Liberal Democrat-led council’s budget for 2020-21. Cuts to Local Area Teams, which focus on early intervention and prevention work with children and families, are set to take another significant cut only a few years after losing around £1.5m in a major shake-up of the service.
Last year the council received a damning judgement from Ofsted on “children in need” measures, stating that there had been a significant deterioration in services. The report criticised children having too many changes of social worker, critical cases being allocated to unqualified staff, and newly qualified staff being given too much responsibility too early in their development including being given full responsibility for child protection cases.
In response to this, the Liberal-Democrats have proposed a budget making more cuts to child services, putting yet more pressure on the service, rather than providing the funding necessary to rectify these problems.
Labour’s Group Leader, Councillor Danny Myers has responded to this, saying: “This Liberal Democrat-led council heard the alarm bells ring after Ofsted slammed its treatment of children in need last year but has chosen to ignore them. This represents a further retreat from the council’s long-standing commitment to meet its responsibilities to support and keep children safe. It is of grave concern and I question what more needs to happen for this council administration to wake up and smell the coffee.
“Instead of prioritising safeguarding children, we see this administration focussing on pet projects that have hit the council’s budget hard, making completely avoidable cuts like this necessary. The council is going to have to pay an additional £1.5m in interest payments alone next year on its capital schemes, money which is being removed from children’s and adult social care services to pay that interest”.
Among other criticism’s of the Liberal-Democrat budget, Cllr Myers noted the decision to increase the cost of Crematorium fees, with York remaining one of the most expensive places to be cremated in the whole of the UK. The Lib Dem-led council’s planned 2.5% increase to crematorium fees would see York rise to the 7th highest charger in the country, based on 2019 fee rates, while an increase to charges at household waste recycling sites will also see residents hit in the pocket, for something the council actually encourages them to do.
“This budget ignores the council’s supposed commitment to a better start for children and young people, and appears set to use next year’s social care precept and grant to plug a budget hole that this year is spiralling out of control” said Coun. Myers.
“It’s a budget that characteristically diverts money away from services that support people into non-essential schemes, which in many cases will not even get delivered on time”.
“Labour will prepare a budget alternative with a different approach that places people at its heart”.