The Commission has invited guests to address the meeting before considering key issues and discussing how to prepare for the upcoming budget proposal consultation.
· Stuart McKellar, Executive Director: Resources, will provide an update on the in-year budget monitoring as well as impact of the financial settlement details expected on 27 October 2021.
· Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance will explain how these issues are being addressed and the resulting actions.
· Financial Update
· Report on the impact of rising energy costs on the council
· Briefing note on the staffing cost of supporting the overview and scrutiny function
The Commission had invited Stuart McKellar, Executive Director: Resources and Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance to address the meeting before considering key issues and discussing how to prepare for the upcoming budget proposal consultation.
Stuart McKellar, Executive Director: Resources, provided the Commission with an update on the in-year budget monitoring as well as impact of the Spending Review delivered on 27 October 2021.
Arising from questions and discussion, the following points were noted:
· Not enough highways maintenance schemes had been identified to date during the year that could be considered large enough to classify as capital. It was explained that more work would be done to identify options to mitigate the risk to the revenue budget throughout the year.
· A predicted overspend for Mental Health Services of £832,000 was reported, mostly due to an increase of demand for services bought on by the pandemic. The Executive Director: Resources agreed to participate in the Mental Health Review panel regarding funding for this area.
· There was an increase in the costs of supporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) within schools. The scale of the overspend within the current year was predicted to be approximately £8million. This deficit is currently ringfenced and underwritten by the Department for Education.
· Concerns were raised that, as reported in the national press, these SEND services were in great demand have driven up provider prices. It was acknowledged that this was not something that local authorities had control over, and solutions were being considered at a national level that would not penalise local authorities.
· The Executive Director: Resources agreed to provide budget information for home to school transport for SEND students for consideration by the SEND review.
· It was explained that funding from the New Homes Bonus scheme was based on the number of new homes built and occupied from one year to the next and this was unaffected by the local plans, which set the future context.
· The Executive Director: Resources confirmed that as Section 151 officer he would recommend increasing council tax as this is the only significant, controllable income source.
· The cost of agency staff, particularly within the People directorate, was identified as an ongoing issue. Work was ongoing to increase direct recruitment in key services areas, led by Pamela Moffat, Head of OD, working closely with the Executive Director: people and her departmental management team.
Hash Patel, Services and Energy Manager answered the Commission’s queries on the briefing note provided on issues affecting current costs of energy:
· The Council’s energy requirement for 2021-2022 had already been purchased, allowing for a fixed price rate up to March 2022. 80% of energy had also been purchased for 2022-2023.
· The increase in energy costs was directly linked to the price of gas, as the production of energy was still reliant on gas.
· It was anticipated that the market would have stabilised before more energy would be purchased, and that further projections for pricing would be evaluated closer to 2023-2024.
Kevin Gibbs, Executive Director: Delivery updated the Commission on the staffing cost of supporting overview and scrutiny function noting that whilst the full-time equivalent resources had remained consistent the output from the Commission and its Panels had increased significantly.
The Chair of the Commission thanked all the contributors for their detailed reports and answering councillors’ questions.