Agenda item

Budget 2022/23 - Stage 2

That the Committee reviews and comments on the Education, Youth and Culture cost pressures and overall budget strategy, and advises on any areas of cost efficiency it would like to see explored further.


(a)          That the Committee supports the Education and Youth Portfolio cost pressures;

(b)          That no further cost efficiency areas be proposed by the Committee to be explored further; and

(c)          That further information on how the proposed £1M Investment in Delegated School Budgets is disseminated to Schools be provided to the Committee.


The Chief Executive, Corporate Finance Manager and Chief Officer (Education & Youth) introduced the second budget stage report which detailed the forecast and the cost pressures which would make-up the total budget requirement.


A report to Cabinet and the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee in July provided an updated position on the budget for 2022/23.  The cost pressures identified were referred to the respective Overview & Scrutiny Committees with a request that they all undergo a rigorous review.  The details of the cost pressures for Education and Youth were included in the report.


            The Chief Executive, Corporate Finance Manager and Chief Officer (Education & Youth) provided a detailed presentation which covered the following areas:-


  • Purpose and Background
  • Summary Totals of Cost Pressures

ØEducation & Youth Pressures

ØSchool Budget Pressures

  • Summary of all Cost Pressures
  • Out of County Budget Pressure
  • Strategic Solutions
  • Update on Efficiencies
  • Budget Timelines


            In response to comments and questions around funding for free schools meals, the Chief Officer confirmed that the challenges to purchase a meal and a snack had been highlighted by students and it was hoped that if there was flexibility within the budget to uplift this, it would be very much welcomed.  The situation in primary schools was that meals were prepared meals from a number of options.  At the secondary level it was more of a cafeteria style with more choices available for the young people.  The current free school meal allowance for all sectors is £2.35 per day. This is just enough at Secondary to buy a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water or a meal deal but  feedback via the Children’s Services Forum indicates that this is insufficient e.g. does not allow for breakfast or mid-morning snack.  The Chief Officer also confirmed that NEWydd were very skilled in providing excellent food which met the standard nutritional requirements.  An uplift for the secondary aged pupils would be beneficial.


The Chief Executive reported that an increase in free school meal allowance had been included within the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), to increase the allowance subject to affordability.  He welcomed the cost pressures at Plas Derwen PRU, which were aspirations to improve the learning environment and provide greater capacity.  Regarding the cost pressures for new posts, this had been circulated to all portfolios to provide information on their critical needs for which a robust process had been undertaken to prioritise those which required serious consideration.  The pandemic had accentuated some of the gaps but these would be reviewed if a balanced budget was not achieved next year.


Councillor Dave Mackie supported the comments made by the Chief Officer around the uplift in free school meals, which had been raised as a concern by young people at meetings of the Children’s Services Forum.  He commented on cost pressures and said that some of them had been agreed during the setting of the 2021/22 budget and suggested that where cost pressures had been agreed in previous years, this should be indicated in the reports.  The Chief Executive suggested that future reports be adjusted to include pre-agreed decisions and new cost pressures for the 2022/23 budget. 


Councillor Janet Axworthy commented on the cost pressures for the Joint Archive Service and said that it was disappointing that the recent lottery bid had been unsuccessful.  She hoped that future bids would be successful as this was such an important initiative within the Council.  The Chair asked if there had been any feedback on the lottery bid.  The Chief Officer agreed that the unsuccessful bid had been disappointing but provided an assurance that the bid was excellent and that nothing more could have been done to improve the bid but unfortunately there had been insufficient national funds available. 


The Chair commented on discussion held between the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and the WG around the settlement for teacher’s pay.  He said that the decision for 1% of the increase to be funded locally had financial implications on the Council and schools and sought clarification on how this would be funded.  He also asked if WG had indicated if they would be fully funding green book pay awards. 


In response, the Chief Executive confirmed that 1% of the increase would be funded between schools and the Council.  Moving forward, work had to be carried out on how future pay awards would be funded but for the remainder of 2021/22 it would be funding through the reserves with the full recurring amount going into the base budget.  He reiterated that the Council’s position was to expect Governments to fully fund pay awards particularly WG as it was a devolved issue.  He also confirmed that there was no additional funding for the green book pay awards in the current financial year as this was still under negotiation and not complete. 


The Leader of the Council commented on previous statements from WG that the introduction of the Additional Learning Needs Bill would be cost neutral and that this had not been the case.  At a recent meeting with the WLGA and WG concern had been raised again around providing necessary funding to meet the requirements of the Bill.  He also provided information about the extensive discussions between the WLGA and WG around pay awards and the WG expected Local Authorities to prepare calculations in anticipation of the pay awards agreed.  He said that it was difficult to anticipate what figure the independent review panel was likely to put forward and when the award would be announced. 


            Councillor Mackie commented on the investment in delegated school budgets, as outlined within the report and presentation.  He said that the additional £1M allocated within the 2021/22 budget had been welcomed and he fully appreciated that its purpose had been linked to the Estyn Inspection recommendation that the reduction in school budget deficits was managed more effectively.  He said that he was unsure how the additional £1M cost pressure for the 2022/23 budget would be allocated to schools and asked why it was felt necessary to include an additional £1M.   


In response, the Chief Executive explained that there were two £1M allocations, £1M within the 2021/22 budget and £1M proposed within the 2022/23 budget.  He was pleased the Council was in a position to have any additional money available within the budget before decisions were made on how it was spent.   Last year’s £1M for 2021/22 remained the same for 2122/23 and the proposals were how this extra £1M could be used from next April.  He said that its predominant purpose was to support secondary schools with recurring deficits and/or secondary schools that could move into an increasing deficit position.  The Chief Executive added that the amount which was put in last year recurred and was in the base budget for this year.  The additional £1M, if supported, would be used to reduce deficits as per the Estyn recommendation.


            The Leader of the Council echoed the Chief Executive’s comments and explained that it was for all Members of the Council to decide whether the proposed additional £1M would be included within the 2022/23 budget.  He said that he was pleased to see that the number of secondary schools in a surplus budget position was improving.  


            Councillor Mackie sought clarification on what the £1M investment in delegated schools budget would be used for and felt that this information was necessary to enable Members to support the budget setting process.  The Chief Executive explained that it was very early in the budget setting process and that the proposed £1M additional funding may not be included in the final budget proposals if it was not affordable.  Prior to setting the budget, information on how this additional funding would be allocated would be provided to all Members.   


            The Chair thanked the Committee and officers for the detailed discussion around the proposed cost pressures outlined within the report. 


            Following discussion on the recommendations outlined within the report, it was suggested that the Committee support the portfolio cost pressures and that no further cost efficiency areas be proposed.  It was also suggested that further information on how the proposed £1M investment in delegated school budgets is disseminated to Schools be provided to the Committee.


The recommendations, as outlined above, were moved and seconded by Councillor Dave Mackie and Councillor Paul Cunningham.    




(a)          That the Committee supports the Education and Youth Portfolio cost pressures;

(b)          That no further cost efficiency areas be proposed by the Committee to be explored further; and

(c)          That further information on how the proposed £1M Investment in Delegated School Budgets is disseminated to Schools be provided to the Committee.

Supporting documents: