Devon County Council is expected to increase spending by just over 10% next financial year, with nearly half of the net inflation-level increase allocated to its underperforming children’s services.
The Conservative-run council intends to spend £696 million on service delivery from April, an increase of £66 million over this year, with final budget approval due next month.
Children’s services would receive an additional £32 million and adult social care an additional £27 million.
Spending on climate change, environment and transport would increase by £2.8 million and public health and communities by just £1 million.
However £50 million of spending reductions in other service areas are also planned.
Devon County Council’s children’s services were judged as inadequate by Ofsted in January 2020 and the Department of Education issued a statutory direction ordering the council to make improvements.
Further Ofsted monitoring and a review by the Children’s Commissioner for England followed.
In July last year a joint report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission highlighted significant concerns about Devon County Council’s services for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) following an inspection.
Devon County Council acknowledged its failings but in October the Department of Education found that while there had been some improvement the council was “still failing to perform to an adequate standard”.
Then in December the county council was told that its children’s services were considered the “third or fourth worst in the country” and would be taken into special measures and taken over by an independent trust if improvements were not made.
County council leader John Hart said last November that deep service cuts would have to be made without additional central government funding.
It now expects to overspend by £7 million this year, £26 million less than forecast after it reduced in-year spending.
The county council has also identified almost £50 million of spending reductions for next year, which will be laid out in its detailed budget next month.
County finance director Angie Sinclair called the combination of spending increases and reductions a “re-prioritisation” of its service delivery.
Conservative cabinet member Phil Twiss said he was certain that the target figures for the upcoming financial year were “both realistic and achievable”.
However Liberal Democrat opposition leader Julian Brazil said: “I think I probably heard him say that at the last budget and then within two months we were £30 million off [a predicted overspend].”
Labour group leader Carol Whitton also expressed scepticism that the county council’s books will balance either this year or next.