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£6.5m cash boost for Bradford's Children's Services - rated "inadequate" last year

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Published by Local Democracy Reporter Chris Young at 12:14pm 22nd February 2019.

AN extra £6.5 million will be pumped into Bradford’s Children’s Services department – despite funding for other departments being cut.

  • Bradford council has approved an extra £6.5m for its Children's Services, which covers parts of Wharfedale, including Ilkley, Addingham and Burley-in-Wharfedale
  • The cash boost comes after the service was rated "inadequate" last year
  • 40 new social workers will be recruited with the money
  • It's despite cuts to other services, including museums, libraries and school nurses

And a late change to the budget means cuts to street cleaning and welfare advice won’t be as drastic as originally planned.

On Thursday Bradford Council will decide on its budget for the coming year, which will likely include millions of pounds of cuts, hundreds of job losses and a 2.99 per cent rise in Council Tax.

But at a meeting of the Council’s Executive today, bosses announced that millions would be pumped into Children’s Services to improve the department, which was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted last year.

The one off investment would see £1.2 million made available for immediate improvements, with the remainder being ring fenced for future use. Part of the fund will be used to recruit new social workers.

Although the budget will see funding cut to a range of services, including to museums and libraries, substance misuse services and school nurses, the services that protect vulnerable children will be protected.

When the draft budget was revealed last year, the Council announced there would be an extra £5.5 million invested into children’s social care and and £890,000 into special educational needs and disability support.

The authority needs to make £13.5 million in savings for 2019-20, as central government reduces the amount it provides local Councils to zero, with a further £19.9 million in savings needed in Bradford in 2020-21.

On the boost to children’s services, Councillor Adrian Farley, Executive for Children and Families, said:

“There can be no greater priority than investing in our children and young people and we’re absolutely determined to deliver services that mean all children have the best possible start in life.

“The additional funding is about making sure we can provide support for the most vulnerable in our society. The funding will help us recruit more social workers and put the right systems in place to deliver the level of care children deserve.”

Last year’s Ofsted inspection cited the high caseloads of social workers as one of the reasons for the poor rating for the department.

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe criticised the lack of funding for local Councils, pointing out that authorities now needed to rely on business rates and Council Tax to fund services.

She said Bradford had the lowest Council Tax in West Yorkshire, adding:

“It is not enough to rely on Council Tax. We think it is a regressive tax, the Government needs to make sure local services are funded to the right level.

“We have the lowest Council Tax in West Yorkshire, but we appreciate how hard it is for residents to pay increased Council Tax.

But the financial statement says we need to extend our finances as much as we can.

The government cuts are so severe that if we don’t do this things will be unsustainable. We want to keep Council Tax at a managable level.”

At the same meeting it was revealed that funding for Bradford’s street cleansing service will not be cut as dramatically as originally planned.

Under budget proposals for 2019/20 that were first announced last year, Bradford Council had planned to cut funding to the service by £1 million, with 26 front line staff lost.

At the meeting of the Council’s decision making Executive, members revealed they would be reigning in the extent of the controversial cuts.

In a last minute change to the budget, which will be finalised on Thursday, will see £500,000 put back into the service each year, with 20 staff not originally included in the coming year’s budget.

Council bosses said the changes followed a public consultation, during which major concerns were raised about the street cleansing cuts.

They also announced a new push to tackle litter and fly tipping, which would see the Council take a more pro-active approach to dealing with dumping on unadopted and vacant land.

Cuts to the welfare advice service will also be mitigated under the amended budget – with £500,000 put back into the department’s budget annually to meet “the rising demand for debt advice from families impacted by Universal Credit and benefit sanctions.”

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, executive for Healthy People and Places, said:

“It is important for residents and businesses that people live in a clean environment.

“We are having a Great Bradford Spring Clean this year and are bringing in measures to improve our streets all year long and bringing in measures to improve our streets all year round.

“Residents are telling us that they are tired of people dumping and flytipping on waste land near them. This is land which no-one owns therefore noone takes responsibility for.

The Council cleans up its own land and does it quickly and efficiently. This additional investment means that from April we will start doing this on waste land as well.

“We are determined to clear the flytipping blights in our communities.

“The district has many back streets in built up areas. These can get neglected and untidy. We’re going to have an ongoing programme to blitz these back streets, working with communities to get them clean and keep them clean.

“Finally residents are clearly telling us that takeway businesses create litter with empty cartons and waste paper where they are located. It’s in businesses best interests as well as residents to make sure they are located in a tidy and clean street so we’re going to work with them to be part of the Big Bradford Clean Up.”

Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) was at the Executive meeting and will be presenting the Conservative’s alternate budget at Thursday’s meeting.

He said:

“Our proposed budget would reverse in full the £1 million cut. It is good to see the controlling group is going some way to mitigating the cuts.”

The budget will be decided at a the full Council meeting in City Hall at 4pm on Thursday, where opposition parties will be offering their alternatives to the budget.

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