- Meeting of Children and Young People Select Committee, Thursday, 9th September, 2021 10.00 am (Item 4.)
Tyrone Stokes and Nicola Wellington presented the report and answered the members’ questions.
Two Welsh medium schools are running to deficit: can you expand on that, and how do we get them out of it?
We are finding that with small schools such as Ysgol Y Ffin that the funding attracted through the formula doesn’t always generate enough to support the school’s fixed costs. Under the regulations, we must give out 70% on pupil numbers, so if the numbers are less then any surplus made can’t be offset against the premises’ costs and resources, as would happen in a larger school. This is something that we grapple with every year, and we provide support in those circumstances.
Ysgol Y Fenni is forecasting a deficit. We are working very closely with that school, looking at staff structures, in particular. It is a growing school, with pupils coming in, but we think a review of the staffing will help with the deficit position.
Thank you to officers for everything they do to try to balance the budget. It is unfortunate that Children’s Services always exceeds its budget.
It is not solely a Monmouthshire issue, or Wales, but is a UK issue. There are councils such as Wakefield that can’t get provision for high-cost placements. Once a local authority goes to high-cost providers, they know that they are the last resort. We try to reduce and negotiate those costs but are powers are less strong than the provider. We actively look through our Multi Agency Service Strategy team to try to bolster that support in-house so that it is only a temporary measure. then we try to move the children back into county, but that’s not just on the grounds of finances – it has to be right for the child. The legal challenge concerning kinship carers has led us to realign the rates that we pay them to be equal to what we pay foster carers. This couldn’t have been foreseen, and made up a quarter of our overspend.
Chepstow secondary school is in deficit, but not the others. Can you expand on that?
Chepstow has faced several challenges concerning a staffing structure that they have tried to put through. Unfortunately, the restructure was delayed by the pandemic, but it has now been implemented, as of this month. The savings will take a while to come through, and they faced a year of those higher costs because at the point in time when they wanted to make the change the pandemic started. Their recovery plan reflects that delay in the timescales.
Regarding the ALN budget, what income comes in to balance the books now that Mounton House is no longer in operation?
Yes, Mounton House received an income from students placed there from other authorities. The income we now receive is for pupils placed from other authorities into our mainstream schools.
As far as schools go, we’ve never been in such a positive situation: not long ago, there was a much greater number of schools in deficit. Perhaps the only positive of Covid has been the help from Welsh Government to assist schools getting into a better position. Children’s’ Services is almost impossible to budget and the committee wishes to give its thanks to the officers for their continuing hard work.