Prime Minister Theresa May has denied major overspending on council services for vulnerable children in Sheffield is linked to the city’s local authority making cutbacks of over £350m since 2010 in response to Government austerity measures.
The Yorkshire Post and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed last week that Sheffield Council has the worst projected overspend on children’s services for 2017/18 in Yorkshire at £11.1m – the second highest in the entire country behind Somerset.
Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Hillsborough and Brightside, raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions and said the overspend was “clearly in correlation with the £350m of cuts since 2010”.
The Labour MP asked: “What does the Prime Minister say to those children who need these vital services but may not be able to access them because the Government continue to cut council budgets so savagely?”
Mrs May said it was “completely wrong” to suggest Sheffield Council’s spending problem on children’s services was the fault of the Government.
She said: “We are ensuring that local councils do have more money to deal with particularly difficult issues that they have to deal with at a local level. We do want to see and ensure young people are given the best possible start in life.
“But it is completely wrong to suggest decisions taken at local level are all the responsibility of this Government.”
Labour-led Sheffield Council said last week it was facing “unprecedented levels of demand” for children’s services and cited “continued austerity, rising poverty, benefit changes and repeated cuts to the community and voluntary sector, health and schools” as the reasons behind this.
A council report said £8m of the projected overspend was connected to extra spending on care placements.
Across Yorkshire, councils are collectively set to overspend by more than £34m on children’s services this year, with Rotherham, Calderdale and Bradford among those reporting deficits running into millions of pounds.
A recent survey of councils by the Local Government Information Unit reveals that 32 per cent say finding money to pay for children’s social care is their biggest immediate concern, up from seven per cent last year.
Around £2.4bn has been cut from children’s services budgets since 2010.