To provide an update to the Schools Forum on the funding arrangements expected to be in place in 2019-20 for the High Needs Block (HNB) element of the Schools Budget and to seek comments on the initial budget proposals that are being presented now by the Council.
The Forum considered a report setting out details of the funding arrangements expected to be in place in 2019-20 for the High Needs Block (HNB) element of the Schools Budget. The comments of the Forum were invited on these initial budget proposals.
As part of the government’s ongoing reform of school and education funding, changes were being implemented to the way local authorities were funded for High Needs pupils and students. A new HNB national funding formula was being introduced which was likely to result in a substantial reduction in the allocation of funds for Bracknell Forest, but in the short term at least, the DfE had introduced a “funding floor” to maintain a degree of stability through a period of significant change.
The report updated the Forum on the HNB budget for the current year, which was always subject to change since the DfE released the final funding allocations after the start of the financial year, the budgets having been set on the basis of estimates. On 17 December, the Secretary of State announced an additional £250m of high needs funding, £125m for 2018-19 and £125m for 2019-20, in recognition of the cost pressures faced by local authorities in their HNB spending. As a result the final HNB DSG income was £0.549m higher (at £15.163m) than that anticipated when the budget was set. Provisional budget monitoring indicated an underspend on the HNB for the current year of £0.169m (which would have been an overspend of £0.380m without the additional £0.549m funding).
The report went on to detail a break down of the HNB National Funding Formula allocation, which after the necessary adjustments had been made, resulted in an estimated budget of £15,406m for 2019-20. Further detail was set out on the key proposed changes and assumptions in the use of the HNB DSG funding and the impact of emerging budget pressures.
There had been an ongoing concern that it was difficult for the Forum to express a meaningful view on the HNB budget given the limited time available between the presentation of estimates and the Council’s final budget setting deadline. A proposal was made that a sub-group of the Forum should be set up to work more closely with the Council through the year, looking at the budget as it progressed and the build up of estimates for the year ahead. It was suggested that a closer partnership could enable views to be expressed on moving towards a needs based budget, a longer term vision for high needs provision and the shaping of services. It could also facilitate comments on the commissioning of resources and systems by the Council.
It was recognised that the role of the proposed sub-group would need to be defined carefully so as to reflect the interests of the Schools Forum and be cognisant of the working groups already established by the Council with headteachers. To this end it was suggested that an invitation be issued for interested members to attend an initial meeting to look at draft terms of reference, representation, dates of meetings etc with a view to reporting to the meeting of the Forum in March.
1) The initial budget proposals for the 2019-20 HNB element of the Schools budget be noted, recognising the challenge presented on meeting the needs of individual pupils and young people within the anticipated level of resources.
2) An invitation be issued to all Forum members for those interested to attend an exploratory meeting to consider setting up a Sub-Group of the Forum to work in closer partnership with the Council.
ACTION: Jackie Ross