Somerset County Council has overshot its budget for children’s services by more than any other council in the country, new figures have revealed.
The £14.6 million overspend is £3.5 million more than the next-worst council, Sheffield.
Despite the overspend, Somerset children’s services were still rated as “Requires Improvement” by Ofsted in January this year. Many parents will see their local children’s centre close after the Tory-run council approved a plan to shut two thirds of them.
Ofsted had rated Somerset children’s services as performing well in 2010, before Tory budget cuts saw the service’s performance tumble to inadequate.
Further cuts are on the way after Somerset’s ruling Conservative group steered its budget through full council on Wednesday. Council estimates show 100 jobs at risk from the £13 million loss of funding.
UNISON South West regional organiser Helen Eccles said:
“Somerset residents are paying more but getting less. Council tax rises are way above inflation while wages are still in the doldrums. Now budgets are all over the place because Tory councillors have lost their grip on the situation.
“A £14.6 million hole in a budget doesn’t just appear overnight. UNISON told John Osman his cuts to Somerset children’s services would store up problems for the future when he was council leader.
“Instead of letting council tax rise slowly over time, the Tories pretended they could freeze tax and slashed services to make up the difference. Now we have the worst of both worlds with a sharp council tax hike and services falling apart.
“This is the latest in a series of much-loved services that the local Tories have run a coach and horses through. They didn’t value public services to start with which has sent the council into a spiral of higher costs and worse services.”