‘We will always do what is right for our children’

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BUDGET cuts will never be allowed to get in the way of caring for children and the vulnerable, the leader of Milton Keynes Council has vowed.

Councillor Andrew Geary’s comments come in the wake of figures which show a rise in the number of children in care in Milton Keynes had led to an estimated budget overspend of £487,000.

The number of children in care has gone up from 260 in 2009/10 to 283 in July 2011.

And the cost of care for those children would have topped more than £1m had the council not dipped into its reserves.

Currently Milton Keynes has 4.8 children per 1,000 in care which is lower than the national average of about 5.8 children per 1,000.

The council’s specialist services department reported the original overspend of just over £1 million was caused by an increase both in the number of children in care and those in fostering placements.

One example of extra cost was £99,000 spent on adoption agencies to place four extra children with special requirements.

Mr Geary said: “The increase in numbers of children in care has risen since 2009 because of the shocking situation in the Baby Peter case.

“However, we have cross party support across the political spectrum and we are all in agreement that budget cuts will never get in the way of caring for the more vulnerable.”

He added that the council would use reserves set aside to reduce the overspend and fund any increase in children in care beyond 260 in 2011-12, with the council using its children and families reserve of £420,000 and a one-off budget of £94,000.

Mr Geary added:“There are earmarked reserves for children in care and if they’re not needed they can be rolled forward to the next year. If they are then we have to look at the budget and replace them.”

Milton Keynes Council is looking to save £71 million over the next four years, a third of its budget, but Mr Geary pledged any cuts would not detract from the level of care that is offered to people in Milton Keynes.

He said: “Never, ever will a budget be allowed to get in the way of doing what is right by children.”