AN INDEPENDENT children’s service is to be “wholly owned” by Slough Borough Council as senior councillors agree to take on its £5.5m debt.

Cabinet members agreed to enter a five-year contract, extendable by two years, with the Slough Children’s Service Trust (SCST), which is an independent company but is funded by the council and the Department for Education (DfE).

This will take effect from April 1 and includes changing its name to Slough Children First Limited and moving into the council’s headquarters, the Observatory House.

However, this new ownership of the company would mean absorbing SCST’s £5.5 million debt.

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Around £2.4 million will be covered by the council’s capitalisation directive – which could involve selling off one of the council’s assets and use the capital funds to fill this financial hole – while the DfE will cover the remaining deficit.

The council will also give the company a start-up loan of £5 million, which is to be repaid within 30 days, for its day-to-day operations.

Senior Slough councillors agreed the takeover on Monday, March 15

Senior Slough councillors agreed the takeover on Monday, March 15

Speaking at the cabinet meeting on Monday, March 15, councillor James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green), leader of the council, said this take over will give the local authority better monitoring and “reassurance” of the Trust’s spending and budget setting.

Eleni Ioannides, interim executive director of people (children), called this take over a “significant milestone” as it will bring the council and the trust into an integrated system for Slough’s children.

This would involve swapping to a council-owned operating model as well as “marrying up” early help and children’s social care.

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The council hopes this takeover will also improve SCST’s previous Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement to be good’ when the rebranded company is inspected.

Ms Ioannides said: “This is a significant step forward to give the new company a new slate and with the ability to really make a difference.”

Cllr Swindlehurst added: “The staff have already moved into our headquarters in Observatory House, and I think it’s the beginning of a real feeling that we’re part of one organisation again – despite the fact that we want to give the company its operational freedoms and independence.

“The point is they should still feel part of the council family and part of the desire to deliver shared services together for the benefit and best outcomes for our children.”