Stable and steady is the position for Hampshire’s Children’s Services budget for 2022-23, despite ever increasing demand for children’s social care services and the additional ongoing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – according to a report presented to the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Roz Chadd (14 January 2022)
Furthermore, a separate report setting out the Department’s capital programme for the next three years, valued at almost £150 million, confirms there will continue to be a high level of investment in infrastructure that will not only help raise educational standards but will also create many additional local employment opportunities, particularly in construction.
In noting the revenue and capital programme budgets – which will be recommended to, and considered for approval by, Cabinet on 8 February, with a final decision on 17 February to be made by Full Council – Councillor Chadd commented:
“I am encouraged to see that the financial position for Children’s Services is balanced for now. However, we are all clear that the financial pressures on local authorities are considerable and we must continue to be innovative in finding ways to deliver services differently and cost effectively while maintaining support for vulnerable families and continuing to do all we can to keep children and young people safe.
“Education is a key factor in ensuring all children and young people have good outcomes as they move into adulthood and so I am delighted that we have been able to set out a substantial programme of investment that includes securing funding from external sources, such as central Government and from developer contributions, which will keep the draw on County Council resources to a minimum. The programme is extensive and will ensure we have sufficient school places, including special needs provision, for Hampshire’s children and young people.”
The County Council has kept pace with growing numbers of children needing a school place, through accurate forecasting and careful planning. The forward programme will create capacity for a further 8,066 places by September 2025, reflecting an investment of around £109 million. This will be in addition to the 14,215 new school places delivered since 2013.
The proposed three-year programme also indicates where new schools will be needed to meet the forecast demand expected to be generated by families moving into new-build homes in the county. However, the report makes it clear that the timing of the new provision to serve new developments will be dependent upon the construction of housing. Therefore, the proposed opening dates are likely to be subject to change.
An increase in the number of children with special educational needs and disabilities is also accounted for in the programme with plans set out for a number of special school projects and £1 million allocated for improvements to mainstream schools to improve the suitability and accessibility of existing buildings. Furthermore, funding of £0.25 million has been identified to provide equipment and adaptations for disabled children and young people to support their independence at home, and £0.1m each year is proposed within the programme to fund adaptations to foster carers’ properties.
Support for early years education is also included in the programme, with £3 million earmarked to create new places and improve the condition of existing provision, as well as to support existing operators to operate more efficiently and remain in business.
In the previous three-year period, £5 million has been invested in supporting schools to ensure their facilities continue to provide good quality learning environments and are fit for purpose. Looking ahead, it is recommended that, from 2023-24, a further £2 million per annum is allocated for this reason. This will be in addition to funding of £0.5 million per annum for specific access improvement projects.
The full Capital Programme Report, with appendices, and the Revenue Budget Report, can be found on the Council Meetings section of the County Council’s website: www.hants.gov.uk