Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, The Rhadyr, Usk, NP15 1GA
Contact: Democratic Services
Declarations of Interest
Item 6: Revenue Budget Proposals - County Councillor A. Easson declared a personal non-prejudicial interest as a Governor of Ysgol Gymraeg Y Ffin.
The Chair welcomed Cabinet Members County Councillor P. Murphy (Resources) and County Councillor R. John (Children and Young People) to the meeting.
No members of the public were present.
Discussion on reconfiguration of SENCOM with Head of Sensory and Communication Support Services, Roger Thurlbeck
Select Committee Members were advised by the Chair that the Head of Sensory and Communication Support Services was unwell and consequently unable to attend the meeting today as planned. The Chair asked that an invitation is extended to Mr. Thurlbeck to attend the next meeting on 21st February 2019.
The Chief Officer, Children and Young People provided a brief presentation and Members noted that the service supports 367pupils (mainly hearing impairment). Numbers of visually impaired has remained stable and need for communications support has declined.
Monmouthshire contributes 13.1% to the SENCOM budget (just under £300,000 next year).
Regarding risk factors that are key for Monmouthshire pupils, it is likely that there will be consequences for service users relating to change in staffing and reliance on expertise. Another risk is that the service itself will be losing expertise. It is calculated that there will be a loss of resilience to flex response across the four authorities. There is also likely to be an impact on staff in terms of staff morale and wellbeing.
The Chair invited questions as follows:
· It was queried what the mechanism is to stop further withdrawal, to stop other partners leaving and also how the new provision fits with the more demanding requirements of the ALN Bill. The Chief Officer, Children and Young People explained that the four remaining partners are completely committed, and it is likely that they will consider strengthening collaborative governance in due course. Regarding the ALN Bill, the Association of Directors of Education Wales group will be meeting to consider a response to the proposed legislation and code of practice. It is thought there will be more regional based working especially looking at higher tier intervention.
· A Member received confirmation that the staffing table in the material provided refers to Gwent. It was confirmed that staff work across the region.
· It was queried if there are talks with Newport City Council in respect of possibly reversing the decision. It was confirmed that the remaining partners are always working together. Torfaen is leading and responsible for staff terms and conditions. Collaboration is welcomed and the four remaining partners would have to consider this together.
1. Chartered institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) produced a revised regulatory Code in December 2017, which included a need for local authorities to produce a Capital Strategy. The requirements were staggered with an aim for reporting compliance during 2018/19 with a full Capital Strategy implemented for 2019/20. This report concentrates on the former in evaluating the governance, planning and priority setting involved in presenting 2019-20 capital budget proposals and the 3 years thereafter making up the collective capital medium term financial plan.
2. CIPFA report that a Capital Strategy should be tailored to individual circumstances and consequentially don’t volunteer a prescriptive format. The overall intent is that any Capital Strategy should allow Members to understand how stewardship, value for money, prudence, sustainability and affordability will be secured. The overall purpose of a capital strategy being to provide opportunity for engagement with Full Council to ensure overall strategy, governance procedures and risk appetite are fully understood by all elected members
3. The code, in describing the Capital Strategy, reports it can be delegated to Cabinet (or similar body) with Full Council being responsible. MCC’s approach is to report budget setting process through Cabinet, with consideration and approval of the future capital programmes resting with full Council. The Council’s Constitution is consistent with compliance requirements. It is anticipated that the actual resulting capital strategy will be reconciled and consistent with a wider financial strategy and both available for consideration during Spring cycle of meetings.
Children and Young People Select Committee to consider and provide feedback upon the budget assumptions, pressures and savings proforma affecting this Select portfolio area.
1. That Cabinet considers the capital strategy requirements and assesses the preparedness of current practices to satisfy capital strategy compliance obligations for onward endorsement to Council as part of capital strategy report in January 2019.
2. That Cabinet considers the annual core capital programme identified in
Appendix 2 for 2019-20, together with the additions proposed in paras 6.14 to
6.18, and issues its draft capital budget proposals for 2019/20 to 2022/23 for consultation purposes.
3. That Cabinet reaffirms the principle that during the financial year, any new schemes volunteered can only be added to the programme if the business case demonstrates that they are self-financing or if the scheme is deemed a higher priority than current schemes in the programme and therefore displaces it.
4. When considering the relative merits of projects and potential displacement, that Cabinet consider the indicative priority matrix supplied in para 4.15, either endorsing or amending it for onward consideration by full Council.
5. That Cabinet considers the extent of proposed sale of assets captured in exempt Appendix 5, in order to support the capital programme, and that once agreed, no further options are considered for these assets.
6. That Cabinet note the potential forecast of capital receipt levels, prior to the consideration of using £75,000 of receipts balance to afford condition survey work to update historic condition survey information and a ceiling of capital ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
1. The backing main report is being shared with all Select Committee members so that they can understand the holistic budget position being considered by Cabinet. The holistic nature of that report recognises that savings proposals should not be viewed in isolation, and may be necessary to allow other service priorities to be maintained.
2. Subsequent to the consultation process and feedback from individual Select Committees and other representative groups on particular proposals, the resulting report will be provided to full Council in their consideration of settling a balanced budget for 2019/20.
3. This abridged report seeks to ensure that all proposals have a designated scrutiny oversight, and the tables below highlight those illustratively earmarked to the Scrutiny role of Children and Young People Select Committee for specific feedback.
1. It is recommended that Select Committee consider specifically the table of pressure and savings, with a view to providing pertinent feedback on the adoption or otherwise of such by full Council in its subsequent consideration.
The Cabinet Member for Resources presented the Revenue Budget proposals. Following on from this, questions and comments were invited
· In response to a question, the Chief Officer acknowledged that the increase in teachers’ pensions employer contributions from 16% to 23% (potentially £112,000 additional per month) represent a significant pressure. There is frequent contact with Welsh Government and Welsh Local Government Association to seek an update. Schools are reassured that they will receive the funding but the risk is being held centrally. Welsh Government has confirmed it will fund the teachers’ pay award for this and next year.
· The possibility of appealing against rates increases at the new schools was raised. It was explained that the increases are due to the valuation of the two new schools. The authority appeals valuations and was successful last year in saving £100,000. The Member suggested that schools should have discounted business rates. It was confirmed that there is a national policy and no local discretion.
· The Chair expressed concern about a potential reduction of the Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) service budget in favour of delegating funding to schools and training being provided on general literacy provision. Under the Equality Act 2010, Dyslexia is listed as a disability and invited comment. The Chief Officer explained that the proposal is to reshape as an advisory service with two members of staff to work with schools to support the pupils. This is similar to the model provided by other authorities. Schools will be consulted on whether the costs will remain in the Individual Schools Budget.
· A Member commented on the specialist intervention provided that has aided pupil progression and expressed concern about adding to the significant demands on class teachers. The Member questioned how pupils will continue to receive the same support and how this will be monitored. The Chief Officer confirmed that support for teachers will be unchanged as per the Welsh Government model. Children with statements will continue to receive the same support. ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The purpose of the report is twofold,
· to provide all Members with holistic information on the revenue and capital outturn position of the Authority at the end of reporting period 2 which represents the financial outturn position for the 2018/19 financial year based on October inclusive activities.
· to be considered by Select Committees as part of their responsibility to:
• assess whether effective budget monitoring is taking place,
• monitor the extent to which budgets are spent in accordance with agreed budget and policy framework,
• challenge the reasonableness of projected over or underspends, and
• monitor the achievement of predicted efficiency gains or progress in relation to savings proposals.
Recommendations Proposed To Cabinet
1. That Members consider a net revenue forecast of £316,000 surplus, and approves the local education authority costs of compromise agreements being borne by the corporate redundancy budget rather than Children and Young People Directorate.
2. That they also recognise circa £1.3m extra capital resourcing provided recently and note that the revenue forecast is predicated on capitalising £444k expenditure accordingly, a decision that still needs to be considered by full Council in February 2019.
3. That Members note the 86% delivery of the budget setting savings agreed by full Council previously and a need for remedial action/savings in respect of £727k savings reported as delayed or unachievable by service managers.
4. That Members consider the capital outturn spend of £40.8m, introducing a £1m anticipated overspend and the presumption made around financing.
5. That members note the anticipated use of reserve funding predicted at outturn and the low level of earmarked reserves, which will notably reduce the flexibility the Council has in re-engineering services and facilitating change to mitigate the challenges of scarce resources going forward.
6. Members note the extent of movements in individual budgeted draws on school balances, and reported recovery plan intentions as a consequence of their approving changes to Fairer Funding guidelines since month 2
The Assistant Head of Finance/ Deputy Section 151 Officer presented the report and drew the Select Committee’s attention to the colour coded sections that highlight the Committee’s portfolio. The Finance Manager, Children and Young People provided commentary on the Month 7 Budget position. Questions were invited from Select Committee Members as follows:
The Chair reminded the Select Committee Members that it was important to compare the effectiveness of services last year with this year, and look for new pressures and to consider if there are enough funds.
· A Member asked when the ALN Review will be completed and also enquired if there was a shortfall in funding from outside authorities using Mounton House services. The Chief Officer clarified that the ALN Review will be brought back to this Committee in February. Regarding recruitment, it is a matter of striking a balance on the amount that we charge. There are reducing pupil numbers in terms of income received from other authorities. There is some ability to flex costs but teacher ratios and property costs have to ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The minutes of the last meeting held on 29th November 2018 were confirmed and signed by the Chair as a true record subject to the addition of Mike Fowler to the list of those present.
The action list from the last meeting was noted.
The Chair reported that he had written the letters requested at the last meeting to Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education, in relation to best practice for refugee children. She responded that she is aware of the good practice and thanked the Select Committee for drawing this to her attention:
With regard to the request for additional time in external exams for refugee children, it was suggested that the WJEC should be contacted. This has been done.
Regarding the Partnership agreement between the local authority and its governing bodies, a meeting has been arranged with representatives of the Monmouthshire Association of School Governors to resolve some aspects. It is hope to report back developments in February 2019.
Children and Young People Select Forward Work Plan
The following additions were suggested:
· Chief Officer’s Annual Report before April
· Review of admissions and catchment – feedback from Members welcomed
· A special meeting was proposed on School Transport and Family Support Services for mid-January 2019 but has not taken place.
· New Curriculum: Suggest EAS present information in April 2019
· Options for Mounton House Special School– moved to February 2019
· Nursery provision (30 hours offer) for March/April invite Newport who administer process
· Play Sufficiency Assessment: Feedback in February or March
· Young People’s Mental Health Support in Schools: Chair to liaise with Chief Officer
· Report on standards in schools: February 2019
The Council and Cabinet Work Planner was noted.
To confirm the date and time of the next meeting as 21st February 2019 at 10.00am