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Contact: Derek Morgan 01344 352044
Declarations of Interest
Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.
Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.
Any Member with an affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting. There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.
Richard Stok declared an affected interest in respect of Item 5 (Update on the High Needs Block Budget for 2020-21 and 2021-22) as Meadow Vale was a provider of specialist High Needs services.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of 16 July 2020.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Forum held on 16 July 2020 be approved as a correct record.
The actions from the last meeting of the Forum were to be reported in Item 4 (High Needs Block Sub-Group Minutes) and Item 5 (Update on the High Needs Block Budget for 2020-21 and 2021-22).
The meeting which was due to be held on 17 September 2020 had been cancelled as there was no useful information to be shared by that date.
There were no other matters arising not covered by the agenda.
To receive the minutes of the meetings of the High Needs Block Sub-Group held on 10 September and 8 October 2020.
The Forum received and considered the minutes of the High Needs Block Sub-Group held on 8 September 2020 and 8 October 2020.
To provide an update on the increasing budget difficulties being experienced on the 2020-21 High Needs Block (HNB) element of the Schools Budget, the significant medium term budget deficit now being forecast and the monitoring and intervention arrangements being put in place by the Department for Education (DfE).
The Forum considered a report which updated on the increasing budget difficulties being experienced on the 2020-21 High Needs Block (HNB) element of the Schools Budget, the significant medium term budget deficit now being forecast and the monitoring and intervention arrangements being put in place by the Department for Education (DfE).
Rachel Morgan had prepared a PowerPoint presentation to update on the HNB Budget. This had been shared with the Corporate Management Team (CMT) at Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) and was also due to be shared with Members. Nationally, there were significant cost pressures arising from increasing numbers of EHCP’s. At the beginning of September, the Children’s Minister said there would be a national review looking at funding for SEND.
Locally the deficit was getting larger. The Covid-19 pandemic had not helped but there had also been an increase in demand and in unit costs. In the two years up to March 2019 the number of EHCPs was up by 17.7%, which was higher than the national increase. Prices of out-of-borough placements were increasing. Rachel Morgan reported that there were 45 children within BFC who couldn’t be placed in August. There were lots of providers who said they didn’t want to take more children due to Covid-19.
When the 2020-21 budget was set, the 3-year financial forecast predicted an £11.5 m overspend with no interventions. This had now been revised to £15.8m with no interventions. Even with interventions, there was a predicted cumulative deficit of £12m.
There had been limited capacity to take forward the agreed measures identified in the savings project plan. There was a lack of opportunity to collaborate with key partners including Health. There was also an urgent need to look at the post-16 cohort of SEND. Linked to Covid-19, commissioners needed to be re-directed away from working on SEND as they were deployed to Adult Social Care, which had a significant impact on a number of measures. Rachel Morgan shared the progress made against the savings project plan and noted that most of the targets that had not been achieved were linked to the commissioning issues.
The SEND commissioning action plan 2020-22 was devised to address these issues and the DfE had agreed that the Council had identified the right areas to focus on. The priorities were to ensure appropriate resources across the continuum of support, work with commissioning to improve provision, identify and progress the next steps for SEMH provision, improve control of numbers of EHCPs, and improve governance of SEND processes and procedures.
One of the ways to improve the control of numbers of EHCPs was to look at the post-16 cohort. Rachel Morgan explained that there were many children in education who may have been better off in training or apprenticeships; work was needed to ensure these possibilities were explored as part of EHCP reviews.
CMT had agreed that more resources needed to be directed towards SEND arrangements and had agreed that SEND would be part of the Council’s transformation programme which meant ... view the full minutes text for item 151.
To provide an update in respect of information currently available in respect of the 2021-22 Schools Budget for mainstream schools together with other relevant finance related matters.
The Forum considered a report which updated in respect of information currently available regarding the 2021-22 Schools Budget for mainstream schools together with other relevant finance related matters. This would assist the finalisation of the budget by the statutory deadline of 21 January 2021.
The key aim of the report was for the Forum to agree the approach to be taken in setting the 2021/22 budget for schools in order for effective work to continue over the autumn term as more budget information emerged.
Paul Clark explained that the DfE had only made a small number of changes to the national process to allocate funds to local authorities. Firstly, the DfE had made some changes in their data, mainstreaming the pay and pensions grant. Secondly, the data around deprivation measures had been updated and they have changed the way this money is targeted so that more money would go to the highest deprived areas. Thirdly, the 2019 pupil test scores would be used to allocate funds to schools for low prior attainment as there were no assessments in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DfE had inflated most of their funding units by 3%. The primary rate for minimum per pupil funding levels (MPPFL) had gone up to £4,000 per pupil (an increase of 6.7% from the previous year) and the secondary school rate had gone up to £5,150 per pupil (an increase of 3%).
Table 3 of the report summarised the initial budget proposals for 2021-22 based on provisional budgetary data. In accordance with the agreed budget strategy, this attempted to replicate the DfE formula. It was expected that there would be changes to the data from the October census which Paul Clark would update at the next meeting of the Forum.
Action: Paul Clark
In terms of school financial responsibilities, the Secretary of State had placed 2 further conditions on schools which were detailed in the report. Paul Clark highlighted that, from the next financial year, schools were required to submit to the LA a 3-year budget forecast each year. BFC was looking to produce guidance as to what schools needed to provide by the end of the year.
Action: Paul Clark
Another change was that schools had to submit a recovery plan to the LA when their revenue deficit rose above 5%. Paul Clark did not envisage that this would have a significant impact in Bracknell Forest as this was already in place where required; it just made it a more formal process.
Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, Paul Clark ran a workshop with schools which helped to ensure that the final data returns which had been settled were accurate. For schools which had not made exceptional cost claims, the DfE had completed payments and the average receipt was 31% of the maximum amount available compared to the 23% expected before the workshop. It was unfortunate that schools could not claim any more than that, which was due to the very narrow conditions set on claims by ... view the full minutes text for item 152.
Dates of Future Meetings
The next meetings of the Forum are scheduled for 19 November and 10 December 2020.
The next meeting of the Forum was due to be held on 19 November 2020 commencing at 4.30pm.