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(UK) Devon: Council facing massive SPED overspend; system 'broken'/national problem'

Mar 7, 2022, Teignmouth Post: County budget overspend reduction predicted

Devon County Council’s budget position has improved, but it is still set to spend millions more than planned this year. The month-10 budget monitoring report, to be presented to the council’s ruling cabinet this week, reveals a forecasted overspend of £5.8 million [$7.6M] across all departments in the year to April…. Children’s services forecast an overspend of £8.8 million [$11.5M], a slight reduction from the last update, while the deficit for adult services has reduced by over a million to just over £3.8 million [$5M]. However, underspends in other departments, including in highways, infrastructure development and waste, as well as communities, public health, environment and prosperity have helped to reduce the overall figure. The update comes after the county council recently agreed its new budget from April, which will provide a combined extra £30 million [$39M] for children’s and adult services. Council tax will rise by three per cent to help cover the increases. In her report, Ms Sinclair concluded that while the pressures in the two departments have stabilised: ‘close monitoring will continue, and action will be taken where possible to manage pressures further before the end of the financial year.’ The budget position does not currently include a separate, increasing overspend for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This is because the government has told local councils to put overspends for SEND provision into separate ring-fenced accounts for three years until April 2023, while it develops a new plan to fund it. The county council entered the current financial year with an overspend of £49 million [$64M] in its SEND account, which is effectively debt. It expects to add a further £40 million [$52M] to this in the current financial year, according to the report. It details how discussions with the Department for Education about a new plan to help bring the deficit ‘under control’ were previously hoped to be concluded by the end of March, but this will now continue into April. Dr Phil Norrey, the chief executive of Devon County Council, said earlier this year that the funding system for special educational needs was ‘broken’ and described it as a ‘national problem’. The cabinet and opposition leaders will discuss the budget position at a meeting on Wednesday, March 9.


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