Philip Hammond urged to tackle ‘£2 billion funding gap’ in children’s services

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has appealed to Philip Hammond to address the “£2 billion funding gap” in children’s services to “protect our children”.

Mr McDonnell said the “most vulnerable” were suffering because of local council funding gaps, and said the number of children taken into care is at its “highest level since 1985”.

During Treasury questions in the Commons, he told the Chancellor: “One in three of councillors are warning that cuts have left them with insufficient resources to support these children.”

Mr McDonnell urged Mr Hammond and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss to use next month’s Spring Statement to address the funding gap in children’s services.

He said he had witnessed a child being taken into care, and said the experience can “scar that child for life”.

“There’s recent estimates now that say that Government spending and income would mean the Chancellor will have sufficient resources to protect our children from further cuts,” Mr McDonnell said.

“So I’m asking again, I appeal, once again to the Chancellor to use the Spring Statement, which he has the flexibility to do, to address the £2 billion funding gap in our children’s services to protect our children.”

Ms Truss replied: “What we are doing is making sure that local councils have the flexibility to raise council tax in order to fund those vitally important public services, but I think the party opposite has to acknowledge it’s not just the money we spend but it’s the way we spend it.

“And the reality is if the entire focus is on the level of spending rather than what we are actually doing, we end up with a situation that occurred in 2010, which is vast increases in spending and actually services getting worse.”

She earlier told the shadow chancellor that the Spring Statement was “not a fiscal event” and said it was “vitally important that we maintain the discipline that we’ve achieved over the past eight years”.

Ms Truss also said local government would see a 2.1% increase in cash terms between 2015 and 2019.

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