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By Mark Smulian...
By Mark Smulian

Scotland's councils face huge funding shortfalls for social care, in particular for children's services, research for Aberdeen City Council has found.

Professor Arthur Midwinter, a public finance specialist, was commissioned by Aberdeen to look at the issue because it consistently had to spend above the Scottish Executive's grant allocation for the service.

He found social services budgets across Scotland were on average 50% more than the executive had budgeted for.

In Aberdeen, the gap had reached 113%, equivalent to around£10.1m in 2003-04, a figure still dwarfed by six other councils.

Prof Midwinter said: 'This funding gap is exceptionally large in terms of local authority services.'

His report urged Aberdeen to seek both transitional support and a long-term solution from the Scottish Executive.

But the professor also said the council should alter the balance between residential care for children and cheaper community alternatives.

He conceded Aberdeen could only change this balance slowly as community care alternatives had to be in place before residential spending could be reduced.

Aberdeen complained it received Scotland's lowest grant-per-head and could not put more money into children's services because it was struggling to maintain other services to an acceptable standard.

'We have virtually no room for manoeuvre,' said leader Kate Dean (Lib Dem).

'The executive needs to give us extra financial support to deal with the funding gap in children's cervices.'

Prof Midwinter said Aberdeen's problem dated back to its formation in 1996, when it inherited budgets above its grant level.

Across Scotland, social services costs ran at around 9% above the grant assessment level, but for children's services it was 35.7% above the executive's expectation.

Excess spend on Children's services over grant assessment 2003-04

Council £m %

Shetland Islands Council1.8300

Orkney Islands Council1.2253

Aberdeenshire Council7.6148

Moray Council 4.0144

East Dunbartonshire Council 3.7 139

Scottish Borders Council3.7116

Aberdeen City Council10.1113

Dumfries & Galloway Council5.9110

Edinburgh City Council23.0 101

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