Pressure is mounting on vital services in Reading as it has been predicted that the council will spend millions more on children’s services and tackling homelessness than expected.

Reading Borough councillors recently received reports from staff on the council’s finances over quarter 2 of the 2023/24 year.

Among the biggest spending pressures predicted is a £7.019 million overspend for Brighter Futures for Children, the council’s children’s services company.

The predicted increase in spending is due to the rising costs of providing children’s social care placements, which can include residential care, social work and school transport.

READ MORE: Reading council budget could take a hit as multi-million pound shortfall predicted

Staff have forecast that childcare placements cost £4.730 million, with £1.805 million being spent on ‘high cost’ placements for children with complex needs, £718,000 on agency staff, and £161,000 on school transport.

Meanwhile, only 42 per cent of the savings the council was hoping to make has been delivered or is on track.

The council’s financial position was discussed at a meeting this month.

Reading Chronicle: The Reading Borough Council policy committee meeting held on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. Credit Reading Borough Council / YouTubeThe Reading Borough Council policy committee meeting held on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. Credit Reading Borough Council / YouTube

Councillor Rob White, the leader of the opposition, argued the council’s overspend remains ‘large’ and the lack of savings found was ‘pretty bad’.

Cllr White (Green Park) said: “I accept that times are tough, but these numbers don’t fill me with confidence, I think it’s fair to say.”

Jason Brock, the leader of the council (Labour, Southcote) replied: “When you look into the detail of why the children’s services situation is the way it is, when you look at the detail of the Brighter Futures budget and the way in which children’s placement costs are increasing astronomically locally and nationally, even as the number of children in care remains relatively static, you get a sense of an entire sector that is in pretty profound crisis.

“The situation is one of severe gravity right across the country and we see councils screaming out for help around these issues and we are lucky to be in a relatively robust situation here in Reading that we are able to weather the storm better than some of our near neighbours.”

As well as the rising costs of providing care for children and adults, an increasing amount is being spent as a result of tackling homelessness.

The nightly cost of emergency accommodation rose from £90 in April 2022 to £121 in September 2023.

Financial officers predict that if the amount of people in temporary accommodation remains the same, the council will be left with a £2.300 million overspend on emergency accommodation placements.

READ MORE: Council approves project to help out single homeless people in Reading

While the council is facing budget pressures, its corporate budget has an underspend of £7.299 million.

The council’s corporate budget for 2023/24 is £23.718 million, but its forecast spend for quarter 2 is £16.419 million, which accounts for the forecast £7.299 million underspend.

Members of the policy committee noted the report on the council’s quarter 2 performance and monitoring report at a meeting on Wednesday, December 13.