Agenda item

Scrutiny of the Budget Proposals


Cabinet Member Ben Callard delivered a presentation, introduced the report and answered the members’ questions with Peter Davies, Cabinet Member Ian Chandler, Jane Rodgers, Tyrone Stokes, Frances O’Brien, Will Mclean, Ian Saunders, Jonathan Davies and Matthew Gatehouse. 


Key Questions from Members: 


·            What are the connotations of using £2.8m of capital receipts to cover revenue costs? 

·            Howhave the Welsh Government settlement and the uncertain nature of grants been factored into the proposals? 

·            Business rate relief reduction is very important for town centres: will we have less footfall and reduced income if there are fewer businesses? How is that addressed in the budget? 

·            Does£2.8m of capital receipts being used mean there will be a shortfall in the capital budget, and we have less expenditure for which that capital would otherwise be or will it increase our borrowing? 

·            Regarding the shortfall from the Welsh average settlement, a difference of 0.8% equates to around £600k? 

·            For clarity, anything coming out of an award to England would flow naturally into a split across all authorities, and wouldn’t require lobbying? 

·            Is the plan to reduce borrowing costs by £1.8m compatible with taking out capital receipts? 

·            Savings being asked of the Social Care Directorate are a concern –how they are expected to do more with less? 

·            Will there be costs associated with making transitional changes? 

·            There are concerns about the assumption that the cap on non-residential care in the community will be lifted. What is the potential impact if the £570k savings are not realised? 

·            What will be the impact of the social services workforce grant and realignment of vacancies on the frontline workforce? 

·            Social Care: how does our meeting statutory requirements marry with there being 853 hours of unmet need? What effect will these savings have on those hours of unmet need? 

·            For complete clarity, there is no assessed need not met for any individual, it’s sometimes delayed 853hours, and therefore we’re meeting our statutory obligations? 

·            What reassurance can be given about savings when the most recent indication showed an increase in the forecast overspend from the previous month? 

·            Under 5.8, waste collections remain the same but given that there are fortnightly black bag collections, have we examined the case for fortnightly collections for the other bags? 

·            Slide 3 of the presentation, is the difference between the figures for the cost pressures a rounding error? 

·            Regarding the reduction in Gwent Music funding, have the implications been considered given the strong correlation between learning music and learning in other subjects? 

·            Could Gwent music be helped in other ways, such as a reduction in hiring rooms in schools? 

·            Museums and Tintern Station one-day closure – will that lead to confusion to visitors? Will it be monitored in some way? 

·            Opening on bank holidays – what about school holidays e.g. the Easter and summer holiday? 

·            Do reduced hours at Tintern and leisure centres take us to a position that will reduce footfall following the confusion, then next year we will see reduced revenue leading to reducing the hours further? Where do we go looking out further than one year? 

·            Regarding Gwent Music, do we have information from other councils about the impact on the take-up of music? How much will lesson costs go up? 

·            How many pupils do we estimate will be able to benefit from the hardship fund, and how will they apply? 

·            Are there any figures on how many users access leisure centres in the last hour/half hour? 

·            What is being done to closely track the cost of consultants and professional fees? How closely monitored are they? Is there potential for savings? 

·            Is there a possibility of using alternative approaches e.g. Monlife is using internal resource to project manage some of their schemes, saving money and developing people? 

·            Are we fully considering the resource that we have left? There are concerns about the stress and pressure on those remaining staff taking on more responsibility and wider roles. 

·            Cutting the budget in real terms last year, this year and next year – where does that take us after three years? Is a more substantial rethink needed of how we deliver our services in the future? Does it not require aTransformation Plan for the next three years? 

·            It would be good to see when and how we will learn about the effects of these cuts e.g. what will the reduced social care support mean for families who have someone who needs social care? What will be the impact beyond just the numbers? 

·            Last year, £3.5m was taken from reserves, with a further £2.6m this year and now there’s no further scope to take from reserves. If that money is used up what fund will be drawn on to make the significant changes that are needed? Would a Change Programme Board be needed to drive all of this? 


Chair’s Summary: 

We all understand that this is a very difficult period and that a lot of work is going into this. The committee thanks everyone, not just here but behind the scenes, for doing their best in this situation. The questions we've asked are to try to see if there is a better or different way of doing things and to understand what the consequences are. 


The recommendations were and the report moved. 


Supporting documents: