Bexley Council reports £13m overspend in children's services last year

Bexley Civic Offices in Bexleyheath
-Credit: (Image: Google Earth)

Bexley Council has revealed an overspend of over £8 million in the past year, with spending in children and education services going over budget by £13m. The authority published its draft statement of accounts for the 2023/24 financial year last week.

Council documents claimed that financial recovery from the pandemic was impacted by inflationary pressures as a result of job vacancies and higher energy prices. Other stressors such as contract inflation and the changing needs of residents were also named.

Council officers said in their report: "In addition to the global economy, uncertainty surrounding the future of local government funding, the impact of the reforms to business rates and long-term sustainable funding for adult social care continue to have an effect on our medium-term financial planning. We are lobbying the Government on these matters and make frequent representations to Ministers as we seek to influence future decision-making."

The £8.6m overall overspend has reportedly been funded from the council's financial planning reserve. The draft statement comes after the authority claimed in February that it projected a £39.5m overspend by 2028.

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A CGI of the planned blocks on Sedgemere Road, Bexley, London, UK
A CGI of the planned blocks on Sedgemere Road, which Bexley Council gave a loan to BexleyCo to develop -Credit:Abbey Wood Sedgemere Limited / Danescraft / GRID Architecture

The council stated a rise of 19 per cent in residential placements for children in care this year as a reason for the £13.4 overspend figure in the children and education sector. This was also attributed to the increased demand requiring additional staffing as well as a greater need for SEN transport. Conservative Councillor Lisa Moore said at a council meeting on March 6 that the number of children in care in Bexley had risen from 259 last year to 294 at the end of February.

The authority also named additional pressures in adult social care as a stress factor, with the sector seeing a £3m increase in spending when compared to its predicted budget. BexleyCo, the council’s development arm, was stated as owing £2.74m to the authority as of the end of March this year.

The figure came from several loans being made to the developer for projects across the borough at locations including Old Farm Place in Sidcup and Sedgemere Road beside the Abbey Wood Elizabeth line station. The latter project would see a new pair of blocks up to 21-storeys tall delivering 200 new homes to the area.

Council documents stated the aim of BexleyCo was to drive development in the borough while also generating a profit for the council in the long-term. The development arm aims to deliver 1,200 new homes in the borough, with the council claiming earlier this year that it would be investing £62m into the developer over the next 12 months.

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