A BID for up to £3 million government cash to attract young teachers and social workers to the south of the county by giving them a financial hand on to the housing ladder has failed at the first hurdle.

Buckinghamshire County Council heard this week that the application, which would have helped up to 100 young professionals, had been turned down.

The bad news will do nothing to help the serious shortage of social workers to help vulnerable children and young families in the Wycombe area.

Forty per cent of jobs for social workers are vacant, whereas three per cent would be considered normal.

John Beckerleg, head of social services in the county, is mystified. "You can imagine the strain this puts on the rest of the team. There is a limit to what they can be expected to do," he said.

As a result the department has to take on agency staff, at double the costs.

The county council has had no explanation from the Housing Corporation, which examined the bids for the Government.

Members cannot understand why the council bid failed when another, made by Chiltern Hundreds Housing Association to help nurses, police, firefighters and ambulance workers in the county, has got through to the next stage.

The government scheme, Starter Home Initiative, will make £50 million available this year to help key public sector workers in areas where house prices are high to buy their first homes.

There should be another £200 million over the next two years.

Jeff Gaskell, the council's corporate services manager said "We were surprised that we were unsuccessful, especially when we found out that a scheme in Oxfordshire had gone through. It seems odd."

The county council does, however, have its own new schemes to help fight the chronic shortage of teachers and social workers, thanks to an extra £500,000.