More than £8m has been pumped into Kirklees Council’s budget over the last year to enable it to cope with the on-going crisis in its social services.

As the authority continues to face what it describes as “significant financial challenges”, senior figures have committed to ensuring it can balance its budget over the coming years and beyond.

But the council has warned that one-off cash injections will not carry forward and that the savings they provide are unsustainable.

And as part of efficiency savings it is preparing for what it describes as “service reconfiguration, restructuring or rationalisation” by allocating £6m to cover voluntary severance costs and “other transformation-related spend.”

The borough’s Adult Social Care services continue to absorb money.

It was shored up via £8.3m released from the government’s Better Care Fund, with almost £5m directed to Children & Families and Adults & Health.

The investment follows a damning report by the government watchdog Ofsted in 2016, which branded children’s services “inadequate” - the lowest rating that can be given.

The department, which is responsible for the care and protection of hundreds of vulnerable children, was subsequently placed in special measures.

The authority expected to be able to spend £294m during 2017-18. After transferring cash to reserves it was left with £286m.

Listen: Blundering Kirklees Council worker accidentally left resident a rude voicemail

It also drew down reserves from money set aside to fund future borrowing costs, which had not been spent.

In a report to Friday’s Cabinet meeting officers reveal that in Children and Families there was £5.8m spend above budget reflecting “continued priority investment in the emerging Children’s Improvement Plan in partnership with Leeds Council.”

The report highlights what it calls “significant national commentary that adult social care is in a state of crisis.”

It adds: “There have been a number of short-term national funding releases but the late nature of these and the conditions attached to them mean that it is difficult to plan on a recurrent basis.”

The report to the Cabinet shows that reserves have gone down from £90.1m from April last year to £88.8m at the end of March 2018. In 2016-17 the figure stood at £113m, showing a reduction over two years of almost £25 million.

Ongoing investment is built into budget plans for 2018-20.

Service pressures on Special Educational Needs (SEND) activity saw spending of an additional £4.4m.

And “high needs” children’s activity will get yearly injections of £1m, phased in over seven years, after the government acknowledged it was underfunded.

However, the council did manage to slash agency costs in half, spending £4.4m in 2017-18 compared to £8.3m in 2016-17.

It also managed to make savings of £55.6m - an increase of £1.6m on the £54m it had targeted.

Conservative group leader Clr David Hall said the transfer to reserves “was always planned.”

Clr David Hall
Clr David Hall

He added: “They realised that they had real problems in children’s services. We argued that a proportion of the money drawn from reserves should be put in to social care but also to spend some of it on pothole repairs and keeping the libraries open.”

Former council chief David Sheard said such spending was impossible as the extra funding was categorically allocated on the basis that it would be spent on social care.