Cumbria County Council's children's services £9.6m overspend

Cumbria County Council Image copyright BBC Sport

Cumbria County Council's children's services has overspent by almost £10m amid a rise in the number of youngsters needing help.

Almost 700 children are in the care of the authority - many due to parental abuse or neglect - according to a council cabinet report.

It costs the council more than £4,000 a month to care for each child.

Another reason for the overspend is "expensive placements" both inside and outside of Cumbria, the council said.

Labour Council leader Stewart Young told a meeting of the cabinet in Carlisle that the council's revenue budget is forecast to dip £4.5m into the red by the end of March.

This was against £385m of expenditure, he said.

But, he added, the council had managed to make savings of £250m in the last decade with a further £50m predicted over the next few years.

'Rainy day pot'

Mr Young said: "The financial challenge continues - the eighth year of significant grant reductions from the Government.

"In addition to that, we are facing acute demand pressures for care services, in particular children."

Labour cabinet member for children's services Anne Burns, said the council's "hands were tied" as it was legally required to look after children entering care, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

She said: "The Government cannot keep cutting budgets like this and expect us to deliver the same quality of services. It's just not possible."

Mr Young said the council hoped to maintain its reserves at £10 million and that underspends in other areas could help bring the overspend down without the authority dipping into its "rainy day" pot.

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