Scrutiny of the budgetary position (revenue and capital) for services falling within the committee’s remit at Month 9.
Tyrone Stokes and Jonathan Davies presented the report and answered the members’ questions.
How do we forecast the grants that we receive for the overall budget?
It is difficult this year, given the amount of one-off grant funding that we have had. These have come in for a specific purpose, with a particular start and end date. The most recent was just shy of £1.25m to fund overspends in social care, which is why the overspend in adult social care has been almost entirely wiped out from Month 6-9. Other grants are more long-term, such as the Social Care Workforce Sustainability grant, detailed as part of the budget pressures. The short-term grants are welcome but don’t alleviate the long-term pressures that we have.
2021/22 has been very hard. Will things be a bit more normal next year? Could things delivered by grant be noted more clearly, i.e. itemised, in the reports? Why apply for a grant when it means we then have to find the money from elsewhere to continue the service after the grant period expires?
We have a comprehensive central grants register, so we can look at how we feed that into these reports. The Chief Officer’s director’s commentary references the effects on those grants, saying that without those one-off grants the bottom-line position would be £3m worse. Sometimes grants are delivered in such a way that we don’t need to apply for them. It has been more complicated during Covid because the Covid Hardship Fund has propped up a lot of areas throughout the council – moving away from that will present a significant challenge.
Instead of grants, would it not be better to have more core funding?
Yes, that would give us more financial stability. Once a grant goes, we have to decide if we can step down from that expenditure or not, or do we need to meet that expense from core services. It presents a challenge.
What sort of savings have there been, and can we be reassured that they won’t affect services?
We must applaud the service in coping with Covid. Delivering the savings that it has is a significant achievement. We must ensure that there is no effect on the end user. Moving forward, we are responsible when putting savings forward – we aren’t putting any forward for next year, in fact, as the well has run dry on those.
On homelessness, there will be a further grant to September to help with B&Bs but what will happen after that?
As with social care, when the Covid Hardship Fund is removed at the end of this month, there will be a challenge to continue supporting that marketplace moving forward. Once the fund ends there are other avenues for us to explore for homeless funding, from a revenue perspective. It is too early to say whether those will meet all of our pressures for next year. We’ve included headroom of £2m in the capital budget for next year, put forward as investment that will allow the needs to be met when we encounter emergency situations. But it is a risk that we carry into next year and will need to be monitored carefully.
What is the ‘Winter Pressures grant unbudgeted for’?
This refers to wiping out the overspend from month 6-9, as mentioned earlier. It was a last-minute grant announced by Welsh Government for those authorities whose social care departments were forecasting overspends. We have benefitted from this, taking us from an overspend in adult social care down to a slight underspend, changing our position by almost £1m in one quarter. But it is a one-off grant.
Staff vacancies will need to be filled, given the pressure on departments?
Again, it’s difficult to get carers and we are competing with external contractors. But, fundamentally, not enough people want to enter the care sector.
Are we understaffed?
The major vacancies aren’t social workers but care staff. Looking wider in the directorate around social care, in children’s services for example, the vacancies are social workers. It is always difficult to recruit them for children’s services. In Adult social care the vacancies mainly relate to getting carers in-house.
What about long-term sickness etc.?
This is a challenge, particularly related to Covid – long Covid, self-isolating periods, etc. Care has to continue despite staff being off. We sometimes have to go to agency to ensure this, but they are struggling to recruit carers too.
Many thanks to the officers. The coming year is going to be difficult. We will have a better idea of what’s to come by the time we sign off the final budget in July, and once the grants come in for 22/23, we will have a better idea of where the pressures will be. The continuing pandemic makes the picture more complicated.
- 20220302 Adult Select - Revenue Capital outturn forecast month 9 - Covering report (Final v1), item 5. PDF 630 KB
- 20220302 Adult Select - Revenue Capital outturn forecast month 9 - Appendix 2 - Service variance analysis v2, item 5. PDF 495 KB
- 20220302 Adult Select - Revenue Capital outturn forecast month 9 - Appendix 3 - Overall Revenue Budget Savings Matrix 2021-22, item 5. PDF 408 KB
- 20220302 Adult Select - Revenue Capital outturn forecast month 9 - Appendix 5 - Adults select comment, item 5. PDF 769 KB