THE rising cost of caring for vulnerable children is causing a multi-million-pound shortfall as a Council seeks to balance its budget.

Leeds City Council needs to slash almost £60m from its current budget as local authorities around the country struggle with reduced Government funding.

The worsening financial position for Leeds includes a predicted overspend of £35.3m due to under-funding and inflation.

While most of the required savings have been found, an £11.3m shortfall has emerged, mainly arising from children’s social care, the Council’s latest financial report said.

A meeting of the Council’s Strategy and Resources scrutiny board was told the budget gap was being driven by increased charges from private providers for placing children in care.

Debra Coupar, deputy leader and executive member for resources, said the Council had been lobbying the Government for increased funding.

She said: “Unfortunately that’s not been accepted by the Government at the moment.

“We do hope they will change their minds over the coming year and indeed make exceptions. Because otherwise we are going to see more local authorities unfortunately being in worse financial circumstances due to the cost of children’s services.”

Councillor Andrew Carter, Conservative member for Calverley and Farsley, asked if there was a worst-case scenario for the Council’s budget position at the end of the year.

He said: “And if that’s the case should it be shared with scrutiny now rather than us being given a nasty surprise later on?”

Victoria Bradshaw, chief financial services officer, said the situation was being closely monitored and a report would be given at the Council’s February executive board.

The Council is consulting on job loss, car parking charges, and building closures as further budget cuts are needed next year.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, deputy Council leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “The reality is we are consulting on bad options, things we do not want to do.

“We have had 14 years of cuts. We have to face the cold reality of the financial position that councils are facing at the moment.”