Plans to move the department that looks after vulnerable children at Northamptonshire County Council over to a limited company will not now happen until at least December 2017, meaning most of the savings it promised to bring will not be achieved in this year’s budget.
The first steps towards creating a standalone trust to deliver children’s services in Northamptonshire will be discussed by the authority’s cabinet next Tuesday.
At the meeting, the Conservative-controlled authority will be asked to approve an outline business case for the new trust, which sets out how it will operate and function.
But the council had originally intended for the new trust to be fully up and running by now and its budget for 2016/17 even stated around £9 million would be saved by doing so.
But the cabinet papers suggest the new trust will not be fully ready to go until December 2017 now, though some services will begin moving over to the new organisation between now and then.
The monthly financial report for the county council now states £7.3 million of earmarked savings will not be achieved in 2016/17 as a result.
County council cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Matthew Golby said next week’s meeting would be “a key milestone” in in the journey to establish children’s trust and will help people to understand better how the trust will work.
“By commissioning the new trust to deliver services on our behalf, within an agreed cost, it will reduce the time and cost of external commissioning, remove duplication of management costs and enable flexibility for swift change thanks to greater structural freedoms,” he added.
The children’s trust will deliver services to vulnerable children who have been the victims of abuse on behalf Northamptonshire County Council, as well as education services such as school admissions.
The organisation will be owned by the county council and commissioned to deliver services on its behalf.
The council says it will retain the “statutory accountability” for the service, though there are deep-seated fears the move could lead to an eventual “privatisation” of children’s services.
The organisation will be created as a company limited by guarantee, and there will also be a trading company to generate income for the trust.
A third organisation will also be established with charitable status to secure funding through grants and fundraising, and to work with voluntary and community sector partners.
County council staff will be transferred over to the new trust, which is expected to be fully established and in operation by December 2017.
A full business case will come back before Cabinet in January.