Councillors have been told that Dorset County Council’s children’s services department is £1.5million over budget.

Members of the council’s children’s services overview committee were informed of the projected overspend for the current financial year and were also warned of a budget gap of £2.4m for the coming year.

Group finance manager for children’s services Sian Dobson said that the overspend was largely due to the increased number of children coming into care, whilst the transport for children budget was also overspent by £426,000.

Last year the Echo reported on how the number of children in care had increased from 276 in 2010 to 347.

Mrs Dobson said that in the case of the children’s transport budget there had not been an increase in numbers, rather the ‘complexity’ of the cases it was encountering that had led to the rising costs.

Cllr Darryl Turner, pictured left, said in areas such as transport of children with special educational needs the authority had little choice but to bear the increased costs.

He said: “I think we have done an extremely good job with what we have and we can only look at the increased numbers and increased costs and accept them at the moment.”

The council’s head of learning and inclusion Phil Minns said that the issue of children’s transport was something that would be picked up as part of the authority’s holistic transport review.

The current budget position is also a considerable improvement on the situation in August last year, when the directorate faced a project overspend of £2.5m.

At the meeting councillors were also told action is being taken to address concerns raised about the council’s provision for children in care.

A report last year highlighted concerns over the growing pressure on DCC’s children’s services in light of increasing numbers of children coming into care and the budgets required.

As a result an action plan was drawn up and an update report provided to members stated that a number of the areas identified had been addressed.

However, head of family support Vanessa Glenn told members that there were still areas that needed attention. These included the development of a care and support model, strengthened budget monitoring arrangements and identifying staff to undertake a strategic review and commissioning of placements.

When a councillor suggested it could take as much as 15 years for the impact of the work currently undertaken to have its full effect, Mrs Glenn responded: “I don’t think we can wait 15 years, I think we have got to turn it this around much quicker.”

Director for children’s services Sara Tough assured members they would be regularly updated as to how the progress that was being made against the action plan.