To inform the Forum of the provisional outturn on the 2019-20 Schools Budget, including the allocation of balances and use of Earmarked Reserves. These funds are ring-fenced for the support of schools and pupils.
The Forum considered a report which sought to inform of the provisional outturn on the 2019-20 Schools Budget, including the allocation of balances and the use of Earmarked Reservice. Those funds were ring-fenced for the support of schools and pupils.
Paul Clark advised that this was an annual paper which was building on information previously reported to the Forum through updates on budget monitoring and budget construction. There were significant financial difficulties last year which included an overspend on the HNB. Whilst the government provided additional funding to all Local Authorities (LAs), this was insufficient to cover the increased pressures. There were some underspends on the budget but there was still a net £2.446m over spend for which there were insufficient funds in the overall balances to fully finance, and there was now a deficit for the first time at £0.141m. This would need to be addressed over the next three to four years.
Regarding the 2021-22 budget, Paul Clark explained that there would usually have been an update from the DfE, but this has not happened yet. Therefore, the most recent update was the September 2019 announcement of the three-year funding settlement. This was expected to remain in place and represented a £2.6bn increase for 2020-21. The next two years would be similar increases but slightly reduced. Paul Clark advised that in normal times we would be cautiously optimistic, but additional risks were in place around the funding of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Paul Clark highlighted that the Ascot Heath Primary School amalgamation had coincided with a large reduction in pupil numbers and cost reductions occurring at a slower rate than expected. The LA was seeking to request additional financial support from the DfE. There would be a one-year lag in receiving that support but there would have been no overall financial impact on the school budget over those two years.
The Forum queried whether, unlike the increase in primary per pupil funding, as secondary minimum funding was not being changed, that would mean some schools would not receive an increase in funding. Paul Clark replied that it was dependant on how much money overall was going into secondary education. However, all that was known was that secondary minimum per pupil funding rates were staying the same, so it is possible that some schools would not experience an increase, but the basis on which funding would be filtered into the schools was not known.
The Chair noted that the high needs review was on hold but there were still issues to be addressed. The Chair asked whether there was a plan to get back on track. Kashif Nawaz replied that it would be the collective effort of the Forum and partners. It has not remained stagnant and there has been parallel planning. There has been a willingness of all partners to put in more resources proactively to stop needs emerging and there was a range of expertise available. Health colleagues including Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists and Physiotherapists had been proactive in reviewing their offer. BFC was the lead commissioner for the Integrated Therapies contract with Berkshire Health and there was an urgent need to review how that service was commissioned. This came under the Commissioning Plan which would be reported to the Forum in the Autumn Term.
Action: Kashif Nawaz
The Chair asked whether the Sub Group would be restarted in the Autumn. Kashif Nawaz replied that it was planned to reconvene in September. The Forum asked for the dates to be provided as soon as possible. Kashif Nawaz advised that the dates would be finalised by the end of July.
Action: Kashif Nawaz
1. to NOTE:
i. that the outturn expenditure for 2019-20, subject to audit, shows net spend of £3.404m which represents an overspending of £2.529m before allocation of reserves and balances (paragraph 6.6 of the report);
ii. that after transfers to and from earmarked reserves, the Schools Budget over spent by £2.446m (paragraph 6.7 of the report);
iii. the main reasons for budget variances (paragraph 6.8 of the report);
iv. as at 31 March 2020, the aggregate surplus on balances and Earmarked Reserves within the Schools Budget amounts to £2.865m which reduces to £1.824m when school balances are excluded (paragraph 6.9 of the report); and
v. the £0.141m deficit balance held in the Schools Budget General Reserve (paragraph 6.13 of the report); and
2. to AGREE:
i. the proposed transfers to and from Earmarked Reserves (paragraph 6.12 of the report); and
ii. to support a request to the Department for Education for a further year of fixed lump sum transitional funding for the recently amalgamated Ascot Heath Primary School (paragraph 6.21 of the report).