Just to be clear, the £143M current expected outturn of children's services compares to around £123M, which was the budgeted figure at the start of FY22/3. The £130M quoted in the article above was a revised figure agreed part way through the year, after the trust had already overspent by over 5% in the first half of the year.

As at the time of the Caller report, all those years ago, Northants children's services have more children "on their books" per head of total population than other socio-economically equivalent areas. The cost is also high, per head of the affected children and per head of total population. It should also be pointed out that children's services are costing us, the residents, around a quarter of our council tax payements, again a high figure compared to the rest of the country. All this has to be set against the clear evidence that the care that is being provided (at vast expense), from a quality standpoint, is not yet even adequate.

I believe we are, slowly but surely, approaching a crisis, where the financial demand from children's services will make the other essential services provided by the two councils quite unsustainable. Politically, it would be glib in the extreme - and quite untrue - to say that is the same all around the country. The problem is considerably, and obviously, greater in Northants than most places elsewhere.

I think the whole mode of operation of children's services in Northants needs investigation, far beyond the ineffectual "scrutiny" being conducted by the two councils. It would be better if this was done externally, at ministerial level - call it a Caller 2, perhaps - to avoid the many vested local political and personal interests leading to a fudge. I would say as well, the sooner, the better, for the least damaging overall impact on the children themselves.

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What is Unison's view representing staff? Have their terms and conditions been returned to nationally agreed ones?

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