By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
KIRKLEES COUNCIL has been forced to divert money towards special educational needs and disability (SEND) as it shores up a multi-million pound funding shortfall.
And senior councillors have attacked central Government for failing to address growing SEND requirements faced by local authorities.
Kirklees has been allocated £38m towards high needs as part of the government’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) but has forecast that it will need to find an extra £9.2m to cope with rising demand.
Finance chiefs plan to release £5m from the council’s minimum revenue provision (MRP) budget.
The remaining £4.2m overspend will be carried forward as a funding deficit against the DSG.
In outlining the overspend Coun Graham Turner said the council was seeking to manage budget pressures “as best we can”.
He commented: “At the risk of sounding like a broken record the Government needs to get to grips with the continued rising demand and the pressures placed on all local authorities by the growing SEND requirements.
“We are still seeing pressures in demand for adult social care but see no signs that this will be addressed any time soon by Government, so we will continue to manage as best we can the pressures placed on our budget.”
A report to Cabinet said the Government’s 2017 review of the National Funding Formula (NFF) acknowledged that Kirklees was underfunded in relation to existing high needs support from birth through to age 25.
It identified an increase requirement of £7m.
However maximum annual increases have been capped at three per cent – around £1m per year over seven years.
The Government has announced it will pump an extra £250m into high needs nationally. Kirklees’ share will be £1m.
However there are fears that it will not fix the existing funding shortfall.
In a strong attack on Westminster Coun Turner added: “Government have indicated that they will be announcing a one-year settlement for local authorities on September 11 for the next financial year.
“Whilst an early settlement is to be welcomed I suspect that this will be very much a holding settlement and will not address the growing demand for services we see in many areas of the council.
“If the settlement follows the same pattern as in previous years the Local Government Association is predicting a £5bn shortfall between what is required to deliver services and the amount the local authorities are likely to receive.
“Whatever happens in the coming months it is vital for residents that the Government gets its act together and addresses the funding of vital public services so that we can better long-term plan for the future instead of living hand-to-mouth each year and waiting to see what crumbs fall from the Government’s table.”