The company running children’s services in Kingston and Richmond has been forced to make £7.5m of cuts in its first three years.

Achieving for Children (AfC), a community interest company launched in April 2014, has said it faces “challenging efficiency targets” imposed by its parent councils.

It has already been told to cut £3.5m from its £107m budget and faces further saving targets of £2m in 2015-16 and the following year, while seeking to maintain “the breadth and quality” of its services.

The company’s business plan states it will expand its services to bring in £6m of extra business from other councils.

The Surrey Comet contacted Kingston Council with questions for AfC's £148,263-per-year chief executive Nick Whitfield, after the company’s first year. He is yet to respond.

Questions included how he plans to make the multi-million-pound cuts, whether or not a forecast overspend last year actually occurred, and where AfC’s first round of cuts fell.

The Comet also asked whether AfC had achieved its first-year goals, which included:

  • To see Kingston’s notice to improve, imposed by the Government in 2012, lifted
  • To provide “strong” evidence to suggest both Richmond and Kingston could be judged “good” by the watchdog
  • To fully integrate services with reduced management costs
  • To deliver efficiency savings for 2014-15 and put in place an “achievable” plan for 2015-16

No response was received. The improvement notice was listed as “open” on yesterday.

But Kingston Council’s lead member for children, Andrea Craig, said: “I have seen a complete transformation of the service.

“We are really very much looking forward to Ofsted coming in.”

Communication between departments and with families had also improved, she said.

AfC was launched in the shadow of Kingston’s child protection services being rated “inadequate” two years in a row – in 2012 and 2013.

The company is responsible for education, social care and early help, and supports children with disabilities and their families.

If the social enterprise, which employs more than 600 full-time staff across 24 buildings and youth centres, does turn a profit, the money will be pumped back into services.

In March, AfC opened an internal investigation after mistakenly reporting its own staff members to police for conducting a survey from a van outside a school.

Liberal Democrat Coun Gareth Roberts, opposition spokesman for education in Richmond, said: "When the Tories launched AfC we made it quite clear that we were concerned about the lack of future accountability.

"That this report outlining millions of pounds of cuts can be produced without any recourse to independent scrutiny by elected members suggests our concerns were justified.

"Perhaps now the Tories will start to listen as we're warning them against stampeding headlong into an equally unaccountable merger with Wandsworth."

Coun Paul Hodgins, Richmond Council cabinet member for schools, said: "Yes they are [still capable of achieving objectives].

"One reason for forming AfC was to use resources efficiently so we could preserve as much as possible to maintain front line services.

"We are focused on doing this in an effective way.”