Meeting documents

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring)
Monday, 5th February, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Monday 5th February 2018 Time: 9.30 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 L. ELIAS (CHAIR)
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (172K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

Noted
3. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from:-

Councillor P. Baldwin
Councillor M. Cook (Vice-Chair)
Councillor J Collins
Councillor D. Hancock
Councillor K. Hayden
Councillor M. Holland
Councillor J. Holt
Councillor G. Paulsen
Councillor K. Rowson
Councillor G. Thomas
Councillor S. Thomas
Councillor J. Wilkins
Councillor D. Wilkshire
Councillor B. Willis
Councillor L. Winnett
Mr T. Baxter - Co-opted Member

Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS AND DISPENSATIONS

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

Noted
5. REVENUE BUDGET MONITORING 2017/2018, FORECAST TO 31 MARCH 2018
Report (120K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (52K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (296K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (91K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (338K/bytes)
Appendix 5 (94K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Finance Officer.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report which provided Members with the positon of all Portfolios as at 31st December 2017. He advised that the forecast outturn currently showed a 1.45m adverse variance with cost pressures in Social Services and Environment Portfolios. Action Plans to address all adverse variances had been developed and would continue to be monitored by the Cost Pressure Sub Group.

The Chief Finance Officer advised that four Portfolios were currently showing overspends as detailed in the report. He referred to the Social Services Portfolio which had the most significant cost pressure and advised that this area had increased since the last quarter due to an increase in the number of foster placements and a change in residential placements. He reported a reduction in the adverse variance for Adult Services due to grant monies being received from Welsh Government which had been used to offset Community Care costs. It was also noted the Environment Portfolio adverse variance as detailed in the report.

The Chief Finance Officer highlighted the proposed income target of 9m across all Portfolios and pointed out that income forecast was lower than the target by 27,000 which was an improvement.

At this juncture the Chair invited questions/ observations from Members.


Appendix 3 - Summary of Main Forecast Adverse Variance - Financial Management and Strategy - Cross Cutting Income Generation Savings

In response to a question raised relating to cross cutting income generation not yet being identified, it was confirmed that it had been agreed by Council as part of the budget setting process for 2018/2019 that this cost pressure would be funded for the next financial year onwards.


Appendix 3 - Summary of Main Forecast Adverse Variance - Social Services - Legal Costs

A Member referred to the 227,856 cost pressure which was as a result of court applications and asked if these costs were expected to continue.

The Chief Finance Officer advised that the costs were due to court applications associated with Looked After Children and at this point in time he did not expect a reduction in applications for the foreseeable future.

Another Member noted the cost pressure and appreciated that it was out of the Council's control, however he felt that the Authority should employ it's own specialist legal team rather than employ external agency workers which came at a higher cost than expertise employed in house.

The Chief Finance Officer stated that there was a lack of such expertise in the Greater Gwent area and this was not just unique to Blaenau Gwent. He advised that work was ongoing to create resilience in the service and collaborative working with neighbouring authorities was also being investigated.

Another Member concurred with the comments in relation to appointing a specialist solicitor. The Corporate Director of Social Services confirmed that there were three solicitors who specialised in children's services within the Council and their workloads were very demanding. However, it was reiterated that the Authority did collaborate with neighbouring authorities where possible on an informal basis, but unfortunately in some instances the demand was such that there was a requirement to employ external companies at a higher cost.


Appendix 3 - Summary of Main Forecast Adverse Variance - Education - Canol-Yr-Afon and Community Tuition

A question was raised in relation to the adverse variance and it was confirmed that these costs related to the former Pupil Referral Unit. The Head of Education Transformation and Performance advised that as of 1st January, 2018 the new Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties 3-16 School (SEBD) would be operational, and consequently, the school would be funded from the Individual School Budget (ISB).

Another Member felt that due to the cost pressure it was important that Members were able monitor the SEBD school budget.

The Head of Education Transformation and Performance advised that school budgets were discussed as part of the remit of the Schools Budget Forum.

The Member advised that he was aware of the processes in place to monitor school budgets, however, he felt it should also be presented as part of the budget monitoring arrangements for the Joint Scrutiny Committee.

Another Member referred to the reduction in the inflationary increase for Individual Schools Budget (ISB) which was recently approved by Council for the 2018/2019 financial year and raised concerns in relation to the additional burden that would be placed on this budget by the school showing adverse variances.

The Head of Education Transformation and Performance advised that the SEBD had 64 pupil places, 24 permanent places and 40 turnaround places. It was hoped that the turnaround pupils would be placed back in mainstream education as soon as possible. The Chief Finance Officer added that the SEBD budget has been vired into the ISB for 2018/2019 onwards i.e. no school budget had been reduced to accommodate the SEBD.

Appendix 4a - Social Services
Looked After Children

A Member asked if the adverse variance would be addressed in this financial year or carried forward to 2018/2019.

The Corporate Director Social Services reported that December had seen an additional fourteen cases in Looked After Children which resulted in a further increase in the cost pressure. The Edge of Care Team had commenced work, however it would take time to see these results come to fruition. Although officers were stringent in monitoring this area it would continue to be a cost pressure going forward.

Another Member noted that this situation was not unique to Blaenau Gwent, however he asked that in light of the forthcoming inspection by the CSSIW whether the external regulators would take a dim view of the recent decision made by Council as part of the budget setting process.

The Corporate Director Social Services advised that all Outline Business Case decisions had been taken with an element of risk. However, it was hoped that once the work of the Edge of Care Team had embedded it would stabilise and eventually reduce the numbers of Looked After Children.

Appendix 4b - Social Services
Supported Living Bungalows

A Member referred to the position as at Quarter 2 and asked why there was now a need to fill the vacancy. The Corporate Director Social Services advised that an individual had been transferred from Out of County who required additional staff support 24/7 and work had been undertaken with the individual around compatibility with the existing tenants of the property before an agreement had been reached for them to move to this accommodation. He noted that this work can take some time.


Appendix 5 - Environment Portfolio -
Public Protection - Caravan Sites (Cwmcrachen Caravan Site)

A Member asked for an explanation on the figures reported for Cwmcrachen Caravan Site since the interim forecast in June to November 2017. The Chief Finance Officer agreed to provide a response.

The Chair referred Members to the recommendation detailed in the report and at this juncture a Member proposed the following additional recommendation. The Member stated that due to the recent decision made by Council in respect of Looked After Children and the expectation that this cost pressure would continue he proposed that a report be presented to the relevant Scrutiny Committee to provide a year-end position. He felt that this course of action would allow Members to monitor the position going forward.

Upon a vote being taken, it was

RESOLVED to recommend accordingly.

FURTHER 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 2017/2018 financial year;

- the emergency measures put in place be noted as identified in paragraph 4.2 of the report;

- actions plans as outlined in Appendix 4 of the report which addressed the forecast adverse variances, when considering the financial forecast, produced as at the end of December 2017 be noted.

- virements actioned during this period outlined in Appendix 1 of the report be noted.

Agreed
6. 2017/2018 FORECAST CAPITAL EXPENDITURE Q3 (AS AT 31 DECEMBER 2017)
Report (115K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (87K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (65K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (16K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Financial Services.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report which gave details of the forecasted capital expenditure as at 31st December 2017. He referred Members to the report and appendices which gave details of the forecast overspend which currently forecast 5,748. He stated that although the shortfall would need to be identified, this position was stable for the current financial year.

At this juncture the Chief Finance Officer invited questions/observations from Members.

A Member asked if capital monies could be carried over to the next financial year. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that this was known as slippage and officers would determine if this could be undertaken, however this did not always apply to capital grants.


Appendix 1 - Capital Expenditure 2017/2018
Corporate Services & Strategy Portfolio -
Land East of Blaen-y-Cwm School

In response to a query raised in relation to the monies noted for this area of land, it was confirmed it related to the development of a health centre.


Appendix 1 - Capital Expenditure 2017/2018
Corporate Services & Strategy Portfolio -
Mayor's Office and Dining Room

A Member noted that there was no figure reported against this scheme. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that this information would be presented in the final quarter.

Appendix 1 - Capital Expenditure 2017/2018
Corporate Services & Strategy Portfolio -
WPT - Civic Centre IT Network

Concerns were raised in relation to the insufficient IT facilities available for Members in the Civic Centre and a Member asked if it was felt that this was value for money as he felt it was not fit for purpose.

In response, the Chief Finance Officer informed Members that the capital scheme was agreed to undertake work as part of the Workplace Transformation Scheme and stated that these costs related to the improvements to IT infrastructure to support agile working. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that these costs were not related to ICT for Members.

RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the appropriate financial control procedures as agreed by Council be supported. Also the budgetary control and monitoring procedures in place within the Capital team, to safeguard Authority funding was also noted.

Agreed
7. USE OF GENERAL AND EARMARKED RESERVES
Report (167K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (63K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (96K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Financial Services.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report which outlined the forecast reserve position as at Quarter 3.

He referred to the changes recently approved by Council to the Minimum Revenue Provision Policy (MRP) which had resulted in savings for the medium term. The reduction in the MRP charge for 2017/2018 to 2021/2022 assisted with the current forecast and future years savings targets. He referred to the forecast balance as at 31st March 2018 of 5.813m and advised that this placed the general reserve at 0.39m s above the 4% target level. He advised that Appendix 2 detailed earmarked reserves as well as their movements, with reserves that had been used to fund expenditure detailed in Appendix 3.

In conclusion, the Chief Finance Officer advised that the MRP Policy demonstrated financial resilience and placed the Council in a good position.

The Chair concurred with the comments and welcomed the report.

A Member referred to a waste site in the Nantyglo Ward which was in the Council's ownership. He asked if officers felt that due to the work to be undertaken to clear the site and the potential associated costs whether this matter should be placed on the Corporate Risk Register. He was aware of the potential costs to clear the site which needed to be appropriately monitored.

The Head of Technical Services advised that investigations would commence on site to determine the amount of recyclable waste to assist in mitigating costs. The actual costs would not be clear until these investigatory works had been undertaken. However worst case scenario was that there would be no recyclable waste and the land was contaminated. Once these works had been undertaken the position in relation to the level of costs could be established.

In light of the response, the Member asked for assurances that this matter be included on the Corporate Risk Register. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that it was already incorporated within the Council's Risk Register.

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

- the development of Action Plans to address the 1.45 m forecast adverse variance for 2017/2018 as outlined in Option 2 of the report be supported; and

- the development of a plan to maintain the general reserve at the 4% target level be supported.

Agreed