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Youth services and jobs to go in £2million Bexley Council budget cuts

PUBLISHED: 10:51 17 September 2010

Bexley children's councillor June Slaughter

Bexley children's councillor June Slaughter

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CHILDREN are set to lose out in £2million council budget cuts while the chief executive's department remains untouched.

Children’s services are to bear the brunt of the slash despite a surge in referrals following the Baby Peter abuse case and ‘a substantial number of jobs’ are expected to be axed.

Bexley council has published its planned savings in services as a response to the coalition government’s plan to save £6.2billion across the country.

For Bexley it means a £1.4 million deficit in the government’s Area Based Grant is to be recouped by the slashes to Children and Young People’s Services and Environmental Services. Yet Finance Services and the Chief Executive Department are to be left untouched.

This comes after Bexley social services saw a 37 per cent surge in child referrals, a 55 per cent increase in children subject to a child protection plan and an eight per cent increase in children being taken into care, following the death of Baby Peter in 2007.

Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers Hilton Dawson, pleaded for the protection of services for children at risk.

He said: “What is imperative is that they protect services for children in need and children at risk. If local authorities do not give the highest priority to child protection and fully staff that, in effect children will die in this country at the hands of parents and care givers.

“Senior council officials, chief executives and councillors really need to look very hard at the way the town halls are run and how they are remunerated. These matters should be the first place for any cuts.”

Children’s councillor June Slaughter said the cuts were sad but inevitable and that the children’s department were bracing themselves for more cuts in the next financial year, which will be announced by the government in next month’s Spending Review.

She said: “We are now trying to contain as much as possible. There won’t be many changes in this financial year. We are moving around the grants. We are penny pinching here and there. We won’t be able to tell what changes will happen to the service until we know the result of the Spending Review. The details will not be published until November or December.

“We are meeting with the voluntary sector to prepare the ground so we can discuss with them how we can help them to help us.”

Some £1.194 is to be slashed from the education budget which includes provision for school support services, Connexions, children’s social care, substance misuse, teenage pregnancies, transport and designated teacher funding.

Other casualties include £187,000 from the Communities and Local Government fund which tackles anti-social behaviour and a £24,000 reduction in Home Office spending for safer communities and substance misuse programmes.

Other shelved grants include the a £120,000 Housing and Planning Grant, a £130,000 London Development Agency Grant, £40,000 for Training for Schools and the Free Swimming initiative was shelved saving £206,000.

But further cuts are yet to be identified as unbudgeted grants such as the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme (LABGI) has been scrapped and the Performance Reward Grant has been slashed by half.

A spokesperson for Bexley council said there would be substantial job cuts but they are freezing the council tax.

They added: “As a result of the need to eliminate the national deficit the council is reducing spending substantially.

“A large portion of this is spent on staff, so it is inevitable that significant numbers of posts will go, although this reduction will be a little less than might have been the case, as we have been preparing for this since last year.

“The first people to be given the detail will be the staff affected, who will be consulted in the Autumn.

“We will prioritise front line services and those things the council does that residents and customers find most important.”

But further cuts are yet to be identified as unbudgeted grants such as the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme (LABGI) has been scrapped and the Performance Reward Grant has been slashed by half.

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