Meeting documents

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring)
Monday, 31st October, 2016 10.00 am

Date: Monday 31st October 2016 Time: 10.00 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR M. DALLY (CHAIR)
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. APOLOGIES

APPOINTMENT OF CHAIR

In the absence of the Chair and Vice-Chair it was unanimously

RESOLVED that Councillor Malcolm Dally take the Chair.

APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from: -

Councillors M. Cross, M. Holland, John Morgan, Mrs J. Morgan, T. Sharrem, W. J. Williams and Co-optee
Mr. T. Baxter

Noted
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

Noted
3. JOINT BUDGET MONITORING SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (203K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the Minutes of the Joint Budget Monitoring Scrutiny Committee held on 5th September, 2016.

RESOLVED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Agreed
4. ACTION SHEET
Action Sheet (44K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the Action Sheet of the Joint Budget Monitoring Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 5th September.

RESOLVED that the Action Sheet be noted.

Noted
5. REVENUE BUDGET MONITORING 2016/2017, FORECAST TO 31 MARCH 2017 (AS AT 30 SEPTEMBER 2016)
Report (119K/bytes)
Appendix 1a (319K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (53K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (81K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (88K/bytes)
Appendix 5 (706K/bytes)
Appendix 6 (82K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Accountant Revenue Services which was presented to provide Members with a forecast of the end of year financial position across all portfolios for the financial year 2016/17 (as forecast at 30 September 2016) and to review the actions taken to move towards a balanced outturn position.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and highlighted the key points contained therein.

Budget Virements - A number of budget virements had been actioned between portfolios to address budget pressures.

2016/17 Forecast Outturn - The forecast for end of year showed an 0.5m adverse position.

Portfolio Analysis - Budget holders had been requested to identify 1.1m expenditure reductions to assist in addressing the adverse financial forecast.

Social Services Cost Pressures

The most significant cost pressure had been in Social Services, Children's Services which was due to the increase in the number of out of county foster placements.

In reply to a Member's question regarding the significant forecast cost pressure within Social Services Children's Services, the Head of Children's Services commented that this was mainly due to the increase in the number of out of county residential placements. The Officer informed Members that it was not cost effective for the Authority to operate a residential facility within Blaenau Gwent and out of county placements were the most cost effective option.

The Head of Children's Services commented that the Authority had been collaborating with other Gwent local authorities and the health authority with regard to establishing a joint residential facility and was in the early stages of identifying funding and a suitable location for the facility. Work was also being undertaken to create a national fostering framework which reflected Welsh Government guidance.

A Member raised concerns regarding the slow progress and the sudden increase in the number of out of county placements which had increased by 11 since June 2016 and had resulted in significantly higher costs to the Authority.

The Head of Children's Services assured Members that there was a compelling case for every child who had been placed in foster care as it had been deemed unsafe for these children to remain within their family environment. It was noted that the increase in numbers had been attributed in part to a Court judgement whereby two cases of four siblings had to be placed together and there had been no provision to accommodate the siblings within Blaenau Gwent.

The Head of Children's Services concluded by reiterating that the use of foster carers within Blaenau Gwent was the most cost effective option, but these carers had been unable to accommodate four siblings so out of county placements had to be sought which had incurred significantly higher costs.

Another Member enquired if the Authority had a proactive approach to encourage the public to become foster carers and enquired whether the Authority was meeting its targets. The Head of Children's Services informed Members that despite an extensive advertising campaign via radio and leaflets this had not resulted in an increase in the number of foster carers. The Officer added that the best form of advertisement for foster carers was word of mouth. It was noted that the Authority did pay competitive allowances to foster carers.

In reply to a Member's question regarding the use and cost of external legal services, the Head of Children's Services explained that the Authority had used external solicitors which had incurred additional costs as capacity in the Legal section had not been sufficient to deal with the increased number of Looked After Children.

A Member referred to the payment of the minimum living wage and asked if the Welsh Government had been approached in consideration of how this would impact on the Authority's budget. The Chief Finance Officer commented that this would eventually impact on the budgets for local authority staff but not at this point in time. Discussions had been held between the WLGA and the Directors of Social Services as there had been no provision in the settlement from the Welsh Government in respect of the introduction of the minimum living wage impacting on the external social care sector.

In reply to a Member's question regarding the cost pressure in dealing with planning applications, the Chief Finance Officer commented that approval to use the Building Control reserve was for the benefit of planning services.

Gwent Archives

A Member enquired regarding the outstanding service charges for Gwent Archives. The Chief Finance Officer commented this was a non rechargeable service and the expenditure will be fully reviewed with a view to reducing the cost pressure and referred to the Corporate Services portfolio which indicated an 8,000 adverse variance against the budget.

Retiring Nature Payments

In reply to a question raised regarding the 60% interest rate the Authority had paid to Torfaen County Borough Council with regard to Retiring Nature Payments, the Chief Finance Officer informed Members that the 60% interest rate could be reduced if settlement was paid in full for Retiring Nature liability as they were incurred.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted; and

  • budget holders be supported to operate within approved budgetary control procedures for the 2016/17 financial year;
  • action plans to address forecast adverse variances, when considering the financial forecast, produced as at the end of September 2016 be noted; and
  • the use of reserve funding and additional savings to mitigate, in part, the adverse variance within Children's Services for the current financial year be noted.
Agreed
6. 2016/17 FORECAST CAPITAL EXPENDITURE (AS AT 30 SEPTEMBER 2016)
Report (118K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (393K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (58K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (67K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Senior Accounting Technician which was presented to provide Members with an overview of each Portfolio's forecast capital expenditure against funding approvals for the 2016/17 financial year.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and highlighted the key points contained therein.

Performance Evidence and Information - The forecast capital expenditure position for 2016-17 as at 30th June 2016 showed a current forecast overspend of 164,331.

RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted; and

  • the forecast capital spend for 2016/17 and appropriate financial control procedures agreed by Council be supported; and
  • the budgetary control and monitoring procedures in place within the Capital Team to safeguard Authority funding be noted.
Agreed
7. USE OF GENERAL AND EARMARKED RESERVES
Report (135K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (115K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (85K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Accountant Corporate Services which was presented to provide Members with the forecast reserves position for 2016/17 as at Quarter 2 (30 September 2016).

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and referred to the contents therein.

Appendix 1: Forecast Earmarked Reserves Movements 2016/17, Quarter 2

A Member commented that the production of the document which outlined the use of reserves was a step in the right direction for Members to engage and scrutinise the use of general and earmarked reserves.

Budget Contingency Fund

In reply to a Member's question regarding the Budget Contingency Fund, the Chief Finance Officer clarified that the reference to business support staff related to the increased workload in the Children's Services Section. The Member enquired if this was a one off in year expenditure and if so, how would the expenditure be funded next year. The Chief Finance Officer responded that the perceived cost pressure could continue into the next financial year if the workload in Children's Services continued to increase and would continue to be funded from the Budget Contingency Fund, if it was not possible to build into the base budget.

Another Member commented that a greater level of breakdown was needed to itemise and validate future expenditure and also asked for a greater level of explanation as to the usage of reserves. The Member commented on the figures reported on the earmarked reserves lists for 2015/16 and 2016/17 on both lists the balance brought forward to April 2016 showed an additional 432,000 than outlined in the previous two reports. The Chief Finance Officer undertook to investigate and report back accordingly.

The Member raised further concerns that the budget implementation reserve had increased and highlighted that whilst some budgets on the reserves list had increased, others had been removed and no longer existed for example, Procurement had been removed and Waste Services had increased to 432,000 and whilst some changes and movements were likely, Members should have a complete understanding of the financial data reported and actual movements should be articulated within the report.

The Member further commented that political challenge should take place in respect of the reserves in order that Members could be given the opportunity to scrutinise appropriately.

The Chief Finance Officer noted the Member's comments and said that the Authority aggregated some reserves for maximum viability.

In answer to a Member's question regarding funding for the union representative, the Chief Finance Officer commented that to support the joint trade unions funding had been agreed in full for a period of time. A detailed breakdown would be provided within the next report.

In reply to a Member's question regarding maintenance arrangements for Aneurin Leisure Trust buildings, the Head of Technical Services commented that the Authority were the corporate landlord for the buildings and funding specifically for maintenance works had been retained by the Authority for this purpose.

Highways - Silent Valley Transfer Station

A Member enquired regarding highway expenditure at Silent Valley Transfer Station. The Chief Finance Officer explained that he would bring back these details to a future meeting in due course.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the forecast use of General and Earmarked Reserves for 2016/17 be noted.

Agreed