Agenda item

Medium Term Financial Strategy: Council Fund Revenue Budget 2020/21


(a)       That the Committee endorsed the Education and Youth efficiency proposals for 2020/21; and


(b)       That the Committee endorsed Education and Youth cost pressures recommended for inclusion in the budget for 2020/21.


The Strategic Finance Manager presented a report on proposed budget efficiencies and cost pressures for Education & Youth pending the completion of ongoing work on corporate finance options and resolution of the Welsh Government (WG) budget.  WG had recently confirmed that they would publish the draft Welsh budget on 16 December with the Provisional Settlement being published on the same day.  Completion of the budget setting process would be a role for Council at its meeting in January-March.


The Chief Officer (Education & Youth) outlined the proposed Portfolio Business Plan Efficiencies, as detailed in the report and explained that budgets had been reduced as much as safely possible in order to protect school delegated budgets.   


Councillor Patrick Heesom raised concerns around any increase in the working assumption on Council Tax and felt that it would be unacceptable to raise Council Tax above 5%.  He suggested that further efficiency options be explored and that Members be provided with portfolio expenditure plans in order to better analyse and understand portfolio budgets.  He also asked for further information on the pressures caused by deficit school balances.


The Strategic Finance Manager explained that no additional portfolio efficiencies would be sought and there had been no new requests from Members to look at new areas of efficiencies.  The Education Finance Manager explained that a significant budget pressure on school was the introduction of the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Bill as this required additional resources for schools to support pupils with ALN.  She also outlined the pressure on school budgets following the Teacher’s Pay Award which would not be fully funded.


In response to questions from Mr. David Hytch, the Chief Officer explained that the efficiencies identified within the Integrated Youth Provision Service did not mean the loss of an officer post and that the additional funding identified for the Youth Justice Team would assist in the strengthening of the management structure with the appointment of a Senior Manager post.


            In response to a question from Councillor Tudor Jones around the actuarial review of the Clwyd Pension Fund, the Strategic Finance Manager explained that the review was nearing completion.  It was anticipated that there would be a reduction in the amount paid by the Council of around £2m.


            Councillor Andy Dunbobbin referred to the challenges being faced by secondary schools who currently held deficit budgets and asked if schools were being challenged and supported in exploring if further efficiencies could be found.  He also commented on the ‘Mockingbird’ programme which he said was a good example of strengthening provision in a financially efficient way.  The Chief Officer confirmed that schools were challenged and supported and that regular meetings for schools experiencing financial difficulties were held.  She outlined the Licensed Deficit Agreement for schools with deficit budgets and reported that a review of this Agreement had recently been undertaken with a revised version recently being circulated to schools.  It was agreed that a copy of the revised Agreement be circulated to the Committee following the meeting.


            Councillor Tudor Jones referred to the financial pressures from ALN exclusions and asked who was responsible for the cost of education for an excluded child.  He also asked if the reasons for the increase in exclusions for children with ALN were being understood.  The Finance Manager outlined the funding formula attributed with excluded pupils, explaining that if a child attended a different school following exclusion, the funding would follow that child.


            The Chief Officer explained that the reasons for the rise in exclusions for children with ALN was difficult to determine.  Children may have witnessed domestic abuse or violence, having to deal with separation and divorce of parents, all of which were acknowledged to impact on young people.  There had been an increase due to drug use with schools adhering to the Substance Mis-Use Policy and also an increase of violent behaviour and verbal and physical problems in schools together with carrying weapons.  These were complex issues with Head Teachers wanting to protect the other pupils and staff with parents concerned about safety whilst recognising that the young person also needed support too.  It was not easy to support schools and for that young person to avoid exclusion but sometimes the wider impact on the school had to be considered.


            Councillor Dave Mackie thanked the officers for the information contained within the report.    


            The recommendation within the report were moved by Councillor Heesom and seconded by Councillor Dunbobbin.




(a)       That the Committee endorsed the Education and Youth efficiency proposals for 2020/21; and


(b)       That the Committee endorsed Education and Youth cost pressures recommended for inclusion in the budget for 2020/21.


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