To present an update to the 2020-21 budget proposals that were presented to the last meeting of the Forum. Associated decisions need to be agreed at this meeting in order to meet the 21 January 2020 statutory deadline for agreeing individual school budgets.
The Forum considered a report which updated on the 2020-21 budget proposals that were presented to the last meeting of the Forum. Associated decisions needed to be agreed in order to meet the 21 January 2020 statutory deadline for agreeing individual school budgets.
Paul Clark explained that data had not yet been received from the DfE which was needed to calculate actual school budgets so there would be fluctuations from that as well as an imminent update on school business rates. Two other budget matters remained outstanding: diseconomy funding top-ups for new schools, and whether changes should be made to the values in the BF Funding Formula to ensure a larger average increase in per pupil funding for 1 Form Entry (FE) schools.
KGA Binfield Diseconomy Funding
Regarding the question as to whether we were legally obliged to pay diseconomy top-up funding, Paul Clark advised that we were not, but any changes made to current arrangements needed to be reasonable. The specification developed for the required competition for the new provider – which KGA won – confirmed diseconomy funding “would be provided until the school reaches a viable size”.
On the current model, KGA Binfield was forecast to receive £5,721 per pupil which was 3.3% higher than average per pupil funding at the two other highest funded secondary schools, and 9.7% higher than the average for all secondary schools. The Forum was asked to consider whether the current funding allocation was reasonable. Paul Clark was asked if he was able to advise as the finance professional on the question of reasonableness and he replied that his view was that it was reasonable, taking account of the circumstances at the school which would be at around 40% capacity in September 2020. The Forum enquired whether the test of reasonableness could be set against a benchmark of other local authorities. Paul Clark agreed to seek information from otherlocal authorities.
Action: Paul Clark
The Forum expressed the following:
· Allocating precious funds to KGA felt awkward but it would be unfair on KGA to make changes at this stage before all the data was available; and
· Diseconomy could be seen in different areas in different schools such as running costs of older buildings.
Councillor Barnard queried whether BFC would only fund the additional cost of setting up KGA to the number of places agreed. Paul Clark advised that this was the case and that KGA would have to bear the financial risk of anything additional.
The Forum enquired whether it would be possible to quantify what the diseconomy scale looked like in terms of outcomes over 6-9 months. Paul Clark explained that it would be difficult to link that to outcomes.
1 FE primary school funding
The Forum were presented with two alternative funding options to the original Option 1 (scaling all School National Funding Formula (SNFF) factors by the same percentage) which had been discussed in the meeting in November and that were intended to result in a more even distribution of the funding increase to the smallest schools by adjusting the value of the fixed lump sum payment: Option 2 was to phase the reduction in lump sum payment over two years and Option 3 was to phase the reduction over three years. No other changes had been made to the original approach to allocating funds to schools.
The Forum expressed the following:
· The benefit of the new Options for 1 FE schools would be higher;
· The Forum didn’t yet have all the facts needed to make the decision;
· Reducing the PAN at other schools to address surplus places could lead to more 1 FE schools (although Paul Clark advised that BFC was not intending to create more 1 FE schools);
· Historically the Forum have not voted against views gathered from consultations, and Option 1 arose from the recent consultation;
· The Forum was very uncomfortable making this decision and felt that, in effect, it would be playing off secondary schools against 1FE schools; and
· The Forum would need to consider carefully what this would do to pupils in 1FE schools, given the turbulence predicted.
Councillor Barnard advised that he would take a decision based on the recommendation of the Forum, and expressed that he would hope to find a way through to maintain viability.
The Forum questioned whether it would be worth noting school deficits and whether they were proportionate to income. Paul Clark advised that further work would be done on this.
RESOLVED to AGREE
1. as decision maker, in respect of the funding policy for new schools:
i. that no reasonable adjustments needed to be made to the funding policy for the next financial year;
ii. the resultant Growth Fund allocations, as set out in Annex 3 of the report; and
iii. the proposed update to the current policy, as set out in Annex 6 of the report, as well as uplifts to factor values required through other budget decisions; and
2. as adviser to the Executive Member for Children and Young People, that no changes should be made to the fixed lump sum payment payable to all schools through the BF Funding Formula to raise funding levels for 1 FE schools, with the intention of further investigating the impact for 1 FE schools.