The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the 2019/20 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at period 10. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion the following points were raised:
(i) A review of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) policy had been announced by the Government during the previous summer. It was hoped that the interim findings would be report around Easter time. It was not yet known whether they would recommend a tightening of the criteria or making more money available. In the meantime, the Department for Education had issued financial guidelines which mandated the carrying forward of deficits. The County Council remained responsible for formulating and implementing deficit recovery plans.
(ii) In terms of children’s social care placements, the County Council was proposing to increase provision in the county. This could end up with the County Council owning the buildings but using an established provider to operate the services.
(iii) It was expected that coronavirus would have a limited impact on this year’s budget. However, next year’s budget could be affected in a number of ways. These included the need to buy more equipment, loss of income, slippage with savings programmes and potential issues with providers. It was expected that the Government’s budget, due to be announced that afternoon, would include funding to mitigate the effects of coronavirus, but not that it would help to address the immediate issues of SEND and children’s social care overspend.
(iv) Concern was expressed regarding the level of slippage in the Capital Programme and whether this could have been foreseen. It was acknowledged that in previous years the process had been better, for example through categorising the Programme to reflect the level of certainty around a capital project, but this was no longer the case. Officers undertook to ensure that the Capital Programme was more realistic in future years and provided assurance that the slippage was due to over-optimistic estimates of what could be delivered rather than a performance issue.
(v) It was confirmed that work had started on the café and education centre at Snibston Country Park. This was due to open next July. The slippage related to land that had previously been the car park. The original plan had been to sell the land for housing, but consideration was now being given to its use as an extra care centre and specialist dementia unit. Although this would reduce the capital receipt available to the County Council, it would have a net benefit due to delivery of revenue savings and avoiding the need to purchase an alternative site.
(vi) The Commission was reminded that the Snibston Discovery Centre had required a subsidy of approximately £750,000 per year to run. That revenue saving had now been made for a number of years. The proposals for the Country Park were more self-sustaining. It was recognised that there was a cost to maintaining the scheduled ancient monument and hoped that income streams such as the café would be able to offset some of the cost.
(vii) With regard to the relocation of the Records Office, it was confirmed that this was necessary because the current building was not big enough and expansion would be too expensive. The County Council was about to appoint architects to design the new building, which should have the capacity to contain records for a number of years.
(viii) Officers undertook to provide further information relating to the savings at the Croft Depot which would not now be delivered. Officers would also indicate what would happen to the residual land that would now not form part of the Hinckley Hub. Finally, it was confirmed that the vehicle replacement programme included consideration of the environmental impact of the fleet and would from part of the Environment Strategy.
(a) That the revenue budget and capital monitoring position as at period 10 be noted;
(b) That the Commissioners be asked to consider options for further scrutiny of the proposals relating to the Records Office and Collections Hub;
(c) That Officers be requested to provide further information regarding the Hinckley Hub and Croft Depot savings.