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Children's services transparency plea snubbed

Public bodies `should not be forced to produce children's budget statements'

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Public bodies `should not be forced to produce children's budget statements'

Assembly government plans to scrutinise how much money is being spent on children's services do not go far enough, opposition politicians have argued.

This week, the Government announced its response to a cross-party report published last November that called for more transparency on where money for children is spent.

Although education minister Leighton Andrews accepted most of the children and young people's (CYP) committee's 11 recommendations, he said public bodies - including councils and health authorities - should not be forced to produce children's budget statements.

Mr Andrews said further guidance was required, but because children's budgeting was "developmental and exploratory", it should not be a statutory requirement.

"Local authorities are already required to collect a range of such information and any increased burden will bring with it a cost implication," he said.

The CYP committee mooted the idea of publishing children's services budgets in an effort to challenge child poverty levels.

Wales would be the first in Europe to take on board such a commitment.

Mr Andrews was challenged on his response in the Senedd on Wednesday.

Before the debate, Plaid Cymru Assembly member Helen Mary Jones, CYP committee chairwoman, told TES Cymru: "Unless we can track where public money is going, we don't know whether the use of the resources is making a difference to the lives of children and young people.

"Local authorities are finding this a difficult task, and unless the Government compels them to do this they are going to find a reason not to. We are not going to do this without making some people uncomfortable."

The CYP committee called for annual children's budget statements, but the minister said spending would be analysed every three years.

The Government is currently developing a new system to clarify the links between budgets and outcomes, which the minister said could be used to develop future children's budget statements.

Recent statistics revealed that 30 per cent of Assembly government and local authority expenditure, about pound;5 billion, was spent on 0 to 17-year- olds in 200708.

This works out to about pound;7,900 per head, up from pound;6,900 in 200506.

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