Agenda item

Budget Monitoring

Scrutiny of the Revenue and Capital Outturn reports for 2020-2021


The Finance Manager for Social Care and Health introduced the report, drawing member’s attention to relevant sections within the report relating to Children’s Services. The officer advised that the situation in respect of reserves had improved significantly, given the receipt of a Welsh Government grant for covid costs and also due to savings arising from staff working from home and several staff vacancies. He also advised that budgeted savings have been achieved, whilst pressures in Children’s Services relating to Looked After Children remain. The increased pay award had also had an impact on the budgetary situation. He explained the multi-agency placement team in Children’s Services (MIST) and advised that this service had achieved the savings anticipated. There is still an overspend primarily due to the Looked After Children associated costs.


The Finance manager for Children and Young People introduced her part of the report, taking members through relevant sections, explaining the elements relating to central budgets. Overspends are relating largely to children needing specialist provision. She highlighted the position relating to school balances and gave explanation for deficits. 


The chair thanked officers for their comprehensive presentation of the report and invited questions from the committee, as follows:


Member Challenge: 


Councillor Martyn Groucutt declared a personal but non-prejudicial interest as a Governor of King Henry Comprehensive and advised that he was a Governor at Llantilio Pertholey Primary.


           I’m pleased to see the assistance that has been given by Welsh Government to assist the Council during the pandemic. I would like to see a longer term funding stream, because I recognise the impacts on schools in terms of budgeting. I’m relieved to see that we are not trying to find things to spend grant monies on but I do think it could be better planned.


I understand your concerns and whilst the money is welcome, it can be used to better effect if its use can be planned.


           My question is in relation to page 32 of the report and the table which demonstrates an improvement in some schools in comparison with others. Are schools in surplus as a result of receiving grants?  Please could you offer an explanation.


I think it’s helpful to recognise that there are schools with structural deficits at the start of the year, Chepstow being an example. Chepstow had a recovery plan in place and was making progress, however a restructure was delayed for a year due to covid, and that means that even with grant monies, it’s position is not where it would have wanted to be, were it able to continue its journey on its recovery plan.   This is the same for other schools, who may or not have been able to have continued with their recovery plans. The grants were prescribed by Welsh Governments primarily considering the size of the school and this is something we were not able to affect.


Councillor Maureen Powell declared a personal but non-prejudicial interest as a Governor of King Henry Comprehensive before asking;


           I have concern that children who were digitally excluded at the start of the pandemic and may not have had support at home to continue learning form home may have fallen behind. Can any of this money be used to support them?


Yes, the grants can be used to support these children and schools are considering now how best to support these children to ensure nobody falls behind.


           I noted your comment about the pay award exceeding the planned 1%. Is the 1% still factored for future pay awards, as this will have an impact on budgetary planning?


This is still under negotiation, but I recognise your concern.


Chair’s Conclusion:


I’d like to thank the officers for a detailed report on the revenue and capital outturn position and for answering our questions. The committee is grateful for the concise explanation of the key budgetary issues in the service areas that fall within our remit.  To summarise, we are pleased that grant money is being put to good use and we recognise some children have suffered greatly during the pandemic. We recognise it is for schools to decide, but we would hope that the money is used to support those most in need. These figures could be seen to be masking a challenging situation, but we are relieved that the monies were given to us to assist with costs relating to covid.


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