Venue: Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield
Contact: Mrs J Twomey (Tel: 0116 305 2583) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A webcast of the meeting can be viewed at here.
Mrs D. Taylor CC, Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Children and Family Services
Mr O. O’Shea CC, Lead Member for Highways and Transport
Mr L. Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources
Mr D. Bill CC, Spokesperson for the Highway and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee (for minute 66 only)
The minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2023 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 34.
Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).
There were no urgent items for consideration.
Declarations of interest.
The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting.
No declarations were made.
Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16.
There were no declarations of the party whip.
Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35.
The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 35.
The Vice Chair and Spokespersons for the Children and Families and Highway and Transport Overview and Scruitny Committees have been invited to attend and join the discussion for this item.
The Leader Member for Children and Family Services, Mrs Taylor CC, Lead Member for Highways and Transportation, Mr O’Shea CC, and Lead Member for Resources, Mr Breckon, have also been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a joint report of the Director of Children and Family Services, the Director of Environment and Transport and the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an overview of the provision of support provided by the Council to children and young people with Special Educations Needs and Disability (SEND). The report set out the position regarding current SEND services, providing an update on the Transforming SEND and Inclusion in Leicestershire programme, the financial pressures faced in this area, and wider impacts on SEND transport services. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points arose:
(i) Members welcomed the report which provided a helpful cross departmental overview of pressures in the local SEND system. Members noted with concern the emphasis throughout the report that the current position was unsustainable and that this service area posed the most significant financial risk to the Council, despite significant efforts to address this over a number of years.
(ii) In response to questions raised, Members noted that whilst the Department for Education (DfE) had suggested the formula for calculating the High Needs Block (HNB) of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) would be reviewed, this had not yet been done despite considerable national pressure. The formula was complex, and essentially Leicestershire, when measured against its criteria, was calculated to be of low need. In contrast, however, SEND demand was unusually high in the area. The funding allocated to the County Council did not therefore meet demand by a significant amount.
(iii) Members noted with concern the expected rise in the HNB DSG funding deficit to £91m in 2026/27 despite having factored in savings arising from the Council’s Transforming SEND and Inclusion in Leicestershire (TSIL) Programme. The Director of Corporate Resources reported that Newton Europe (a national leader in this field of work) had been commissioned to support the review of the Council’s SEND service and had been invaluable in helping it to develop its TSIL Programme. However, despite its knowledge and expertise, the Council could still not bring its budget for SEND services in line with the grant provided by Government.
(iv) Members emphasised the need for national funding reform and questioned what Lead Members were doing to lobby Government to address this. The estimated national budget deficit for SEND Services was currently £3.6 billion and Leicestershire’s deficit whilst significant was therefore only a proportion of what was a much bigger national financial problem.
(v) The Director of Corporate Resources confirmed that County Treasurers had lobbied the DfE, alongside the County Council’s Network, given the impact on the financial stability of many County Council’s in this service area. It was thought, however, that the LGA (Local Government Association) could do more to support the position nationally. Members were assured that locally the Leader and the current and past Lead Members for Children and Family Services and for Resources had, and continued to, lobby Government. Unfortunately, the DfE was not currently showing any signs of addressing the issue.
(vi) The Council was currently in the DfE ‘Delivering better value for SEND’ programme. It was likely that without significant improvement its HNB DSG funding deficit would reach a level that would push it into the DfE’s ‘Safety Valve’ programme. However, whilst through this programme the DfE would put in funding to support local SEND services, the Council would also be required to use much of its own resources (i.e. its reserves). This would be a difficult negotiation and there were mixed reports as to the success of this approach for authorities already within ... view the full minutes text for item 66.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the 2022/23 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at the end of period 10 (the end of January). A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
welcomed the reduction in the forecasted overspend from £8.5m to £2.5m during
the period. Whilst significant
challenges still lay ahead, the Council’s financial position was now much
better than predicted earlier in the year, at least for the short term.
vacancies continued to be an issue across all service areas. The reasons for this were wide ranging, with
staff retiring early, public sector pay continuing to fall behind private
sector pay, job pressures and a reduced wider workforce following the
referendum and Covid pandemic. A Member
commented that recruitment and retention of staff was a national problem within
the public sector and a national solution was therefore needed. The Director of Corporate Resources assured
Members that much was being done to manage this locally so far as possible,
including improvements in publicising positions available, providing flexible
working options, the simplification of the application process according to job
roles, and in providing market supplements where appropriate.
Department of Transport had confirmed that funding to support bus services
would continue into 2023/24. However,
this provided only short term respite and the long term position remained
difficult with a £1m plus deficit still needing to be addressed in future
statutory override for the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) had been extended for
a further three years to 2025/28. This
meant the Council did not need to account for the growing DSG deficit in its
main revenue budget and so could continue to carry this forward during the
period. However, it still had to set
aside funds to balance against this for audit and risk purposes. A Member suggested that the Council should
demonstrate the opportunities lost in not being able to use this funding to
support other services to emphasise the need for national funding reform in
this area. The Director undertook to
consider how best to present this information in future reports.
response to questions raised, the Director explained that bus subsidies and
concessionary travel payments paid by the Council to commercial operators were
managed separately for accounting purposes.
Bus subsidies were discretionary whilst concessionary travel was a
statutory responsibility which the Council had to quantify in isolation. Members noted that commercial operators were
reclaiming less for concessionary travel as the number of passengers using the
scheme had fallen during the pandemic.
It remained to be seen whether numbers would return to pre-pandemic
levels. It was acknowledged that this
was having an impact on the viability of some services.
That the update on the 2022/23 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at the end of period 10 (end of January) be noted.
Date of next meeting.
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on 12th April 2023 at 10.00am.
It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 12th April 2023 at 10.00 am.