Agenda and minutes

Venue: Remote Meeting. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

2.

Public Open Forum

Minutes:

No members of the public were present.

 

3.

Budget Monitoring:Scrutiny of the budget monitoring capital and revenue position at Month 7, setting the context for scrutiny of budget proposals. pdf icon PDF 382 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Tyrone Stokes and Nicola Wellington presented the report and answered the members’ questions.

Challenge:

Are we working closely with colleagues in health and children’s services so we know well in advance which children coming through will need to go to out-of-county provision later, so we can build the costs into the budget for years ahead?

We are well aware of the education costs coming through, and in recent years we have seen an improvement in forecasting. In recent months, we have put in place a tracker that will track pupils from the start of their education, and therefore the costs as they move through their education. That will certainly give us a lot more clarity around the future costs for all of our pupils. We work very closely with health and education colleagues. When a child is presented to the local authority, we have a multi-agency approach: we deal with health, and try to secure the appropriate funding; similarly with education, and if they need higher education support, we can again tap into the relevant body. In Social Care and Children’s Services, we have had a tracker in place for the last 7 or 8 years. A few years ago, officers brought a paper to this committee covering the range of unit costs for a looked-after child: on average, it is £45k per year. But there is a big variation: if children are in foster care, the unit cost is £28-30k per year but if they are in out-of-county residential care, it could be as much as £300-500k per year. Children’s Services are now in a very good place, having bolstered our intervention and prevention, and have done a fantastic job in recent years. Looked-after children numbers are stabilising at 220.  What we can’t reassure members is how the numbers will fluctuate as we come out of the pandemic, and the direction the courts will give us. Another paper that went to members previously concerned the MIST support team that can look at more in-house and community-based services on offer, rather than having to put looked-after children into expensive out of county placements.

With pressures on budgets, are we still investing heavily in prevention and family support services? Presumably, the stabilised numbers are unlikely to continue when the effects of the pandemic hit later on?

Yes, this is the difficulty now: as we start moving out, we can’t be complacent that the numbers are stabilising. We are still heavily investing in the preventative intervention services, and in next year’s budget, we are looking to address the in-year deficit for children’s services – so we are continuing that investment as well.

Could we have the overall figure of what the overall deficit in month 7 is, and how it relates to the CYP budget?

The Month 7 deficit was on overspend of £6.43m for the council revenue fund, of which £5.91m related to Covid. In terms of children’s services, none of that relates to Covid – any Covid-related pressures  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Budget Scrutiny: Scrutiny of the budget proposals for 2021/22. pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Please use this link to access the papers for this item - available as part of the 20th January 2021 Cabinet agenda. 

 

https://democracy.monmouthshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=144&MId=4793&Ver=4

Minutes:

Peter Davies, Nicola Wellington and Tyrone Stokes delivered the presentation and report, and answered the members’ questions, along with Julie Boothroyd and Cabinet Member Phil Murphy.

Challenge:

Monlife must have lost a lot of revenue from schools using leisure centres, as well as gyms being closed. Are we happy that Monlife will be able to ride the storm?

Timing couldn’t have been any worse for Monlife, in terms of what has happened this year. The income losses suffered by Monlife have been met in full by Welsh Government through the Covid Hardship Fund – to their credit, they have followed through with funding dealing with income shortfalls resulting from the pandemic. We expect this to continue into next year until services are back up and running. Monlife is confident of footfall returning when things can reopen fully. While we have furloughed a number of Monlife staff, we have drawn on that capacity release to support Test, Trace and Protect, and assisted with Business Grants administration, and it will assist in supporting some of the pandemic rollout, working with health.

As our levels of looked-after children have increased, is there any scope for additional grants from Welsh Government, particularly if the increase is greater than in other local authorities?

There have been some small amounts of funding that have helped on the periphery, but nothing specifically for looked-after children. Over a year ago, a Welsh Government task force assessed our strategy around the reduction in looked-after children, and we have to report on a quarterly basis as to how we are progressing. So it is being observed very closely from a Welsh Government perspective. Our numbers plateaued this year, which we hope will continue. Small amounts of grant money that have come through have been helpful in bolstering intervention and prevention provision, to prevent escalation further up into more costly services. We hope to be able, through the evidence gathered from that, to secure other monies.

Are the 3 remaining pupils at Mounton House still based there, and is that under the PRU? What is the plan for them?

The 3 pupils referred to are the Monmouthshire pupils who were in Mounton House when it closed. Two have now moved into independent provision, one has moved over to PRS. The cost for all 3 has been built in and will be included in the tracker mentioned earlier as we move forward.

Is the PRS based in Mounton House? Are there other pupils for PRS based there?

Mounton House remains vacant. There would be a business case to back that provision if we did decide to move in that way, but it wouldn’t be one pupil, it would be the PRS service. We are looking at that option but there are cost implications to work through.

There is a concern about the collection of council tax following the economic effects of Covid, and the demographic changes. Has that been properly evaluated and factored into the calculations?  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Verbal update on the position with schools and blended learning: Chief Officer, Children and Young People

Minutes:

Will McLean delivered the update and answered the members’ questions:

On 17th December, the local authority decided its return to school plans, with agreement that the first 2 days of the term should be remote learning, with face-to-face resuming on 6th January. That decision was communicated to parents, and we agreed to meet on 4th to appraise the evolved situation. On 4th, we discussed changing our plans; however, our local discussions were superseded by the Minister’s intervention: she announced that all schools would remain on remote learning until 18th January. When the decision to return on 6th was made, the rate in Monmouthshire was 409 per 100,000; when we discussed it again on 4th, the rate had fallen to 316 per 100,000. Debates with the Minister continued, then on 8th January she announced that education would form part of the 3-weekly review cycle, that there would be no face-to-face learning for the vast majority of pupils until 28th January at the earliest, and it would likely be half term before the majority of pupils began phasing back into school.

Two factors surrounded that discussion: were schools a safe place for pupils and staff, and the impact on the R number of closing schools to face-to-face learning. Discussions with Trade Unions have focussed on the first factor, but always with due regard to the second. The outcome is that our schools are currently open, providing remote learning to the vast majority of pupils, with two key exceptions: vulnerable children and children of critical workers. For the former, we have worked very closely with Social Services colleagues to determine 6 categories of learners who fall into that group – our underlying principle is that anyone who is safer at school than at home should be in school. For the latter, there have been a couple of changes from the first lockdown when our schools provided Hub provision: first, it has become apparent that only one parent has to be a critical worker in order to access the provision, and second, Welsh Government has published a list of occupations that qualify as ‘critical work’, to which we can work. But we continually stress that face-to-face learning should be a last resort for families.

At primary and secondary, 908 pupils have registered as critical worker children; on average, last week 570 attended school. 363 vulnerable learners have registered, with an average of 218 attending last week. The range of attendee numbers depends on the location and context of a school, and the community it serves e.g. Osbaston has 100 registered children, with none or only a few registered in the more rural schools. Overall, this is a significant increase on the last week of Hub provision, in which approximately 400 children attended. This rate is likely to increase if we remain in the remote learning pattern for an extended period.

This is challenging for a number of reasons. In Spring 2020, schools were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Children and Young People Select Committee Forward Work Plan pdf icon PDF 497 KB

Minutes:

Welsh-medium workshop on 28th January at 2pm. CYP Select on 11th February to discuss the EAS Business Plan and FSM strategy.

 

7.

Cabinet and Council Work Planner pdf icon PDF 198 KB

8.

To confirm the minutes of the previous meetings pdf icon PDF 471 KB

·         Special Meeting held on 25th November 2020

·         8th December 2020

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.

 

9.

To confirm the date and time of the next meeting as Special Meeting 11th February 2021 and 9th March 2021