£3.6m overspend defended by city social services chief
A CITY social services boss has defended a predicted £3.6 million overspend in his department.
Nick Tregoning, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for social services, said the authority had a duty to look after youngsters in its care, despite the cost.
He spoke out following a question at the latest council meeting posed by Dunvant-based Lis Davies, from the public gallery, about the child and family services department running significantly over budget.
Mr Tregoning said the overspend in the department was due to increasing levels of looked-after children.
He said: “The situation is simply because the number of looked-after children continues to rise.
“In order to look after looked-after children, it costs £25,000 to £27,000 a year.
“You have an increase of 10 and it costs £250,000.”
Mr Tregoning made it clear the council would do all it could to take care of children in need of support, irrespective of whether it would lead to an overspend or not.
“We have a statutory obligation which we will fulfil to make sure they are looked after,” he added.
During a debate on child and family services, concerns were raised by Morriston councillor Rob Stewart that cash had been taken from the education budget to support the service.
He said: “It has been a case of money being pushed out of the education budget and shoved into family services, and there is an overspend.
“Clearly education is the main target next year.
“How will they fund the service next year?”
Mike Day, cabinet member for education, said the difference in funding amounted to £600,000.
A series of figures were mentioned in the course of the meeting regarding the size of the overspend.
Stuart Rice, cabinet member for finance, said: “There’s a lot of figures going up in the air and I have only have one appropriate one back in February.
“When it comes to the budget in February, we are going to have a long consultation process.”
Mr Day stressed it was vital the child and family services should have the right level of support.
“We are investing in children in the City and County of Swansea — we have to find a way of funding these demands on us,” he added.
Recent figures have revealed the number of looked- after youngsters has fallen in the last month.
Paul Smith, chief executive of Swansea Council, said: “For the first time in two years the number of looked-after children has gone down — but it is still up in the high 500s.”