A Report from the Interim Executive Director of Resources and Regulation is attached.
Councillor O’Brien, Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing submitted a report informing the Committee of the Council’s financial position for the period April to December 2018 and projecting the likely outturn at the end of 2018/19.
The report included Prudential Indicators in accordance with CIPFA’s Prudential Code.
It was reported that the current projected overspend was £2.608m which represented approximately 1.89% of the total net budget of £138.016 and was a reduced figure from the previous quarter.
Service specific financial monitoring was included within the report and provided more detailed analysis for each department.
Questions and comments were invited from the Committee and the following issues were raised:-
· Councillor Hankey referred to the 10 point cost saving plan that was set out within the report and had been in place for a number of years and asked how effective the measures had been.
Steve Kenyon explained that it was difficult to attribute figures to the measures as the information isn’t available. It was a healthy exercise to undertake as it challenged and enhanced the approval processes.
· Councillor Hankey stated that the plans produced always contained ambitious cost savings which weren’t always met and seen through to the end of the plan. Councillor Hankey asked if a plan would be seen through.
Councillor O’Brien explained that it was quite difficult to work towards objectives that weren’t clearly defined and looking 3 years ahead. There was always an ongoing process of change.
· Councillor Caserta referred to the costs associated by using Independent Fostering Agencies and the amount that the Council paid in house foster carers. Councillor Caserta stated that he was aware that the Council had historically paid less than IFAs and other Councils but had good relationships with Foster Carers. Recently, the amount paid to in house foster carers had increased and Councillor Caserta asked why this was.
Karen Dolton explained that there had been improvements in the way that IFAs and other local authorities worked with their foster carers to the point that the Council was no longer seen as the best option and therefore in house foster carers were moving to either IFAs or other local authorities as they paid more. The council needed to retain foster carers so had to be competitive in the amounts paid to them.
Karen also reported that it was anticipated that the Council reduce the use of IFAs over the next 3 years.
Councillor O’Brien also explained that a lot of work was being done in relation to prevention work which would lead to a reduction of looked after children in the borough.
· Councillor N Jones referred to 3.6.1 in the report and the reference to recruitment freeze and stated that the Council had recently employed a number of directors and assistant directors at a significant cost.
Geoff Little, Chief Executive explained that the Council had changed its structure at the top level to bring in new skills that would be required to meet the challenges that it was facing. There was a need to strengthen the officer leadership of the Council to ensure that it was in as strong position as possible going forward.
· Councillor N Jones referred to the use of consultants and asked what the cost implications were.
It was reported that the costs of bringing in consultants was £1.6m in 2017/2018 and £1.2m in 2018/2019.
· Councillor S Smith referred to the £2.6m projected overspend and asked how this would be resolved. Councillor Smith asked whether this would mean further job losses across the Council in the future.
Councillor O’Brien explained that a lot of work was being carried out in relation to the overspend. Action being taken was documented for each department within the report.
Councillor O’Brien explained that the Council had seen a loss of 650 members of staff in the past few years and that he wouldn’t speculate on future job losses. The Council has a range of options in place for employees to reduce their working hours, retire early or consider mutual settlement. All of which reduce the need for compulsory redundancy.
· Councillor Hankey referred to the demand pressures on both Adults and Children’s services in relation to care packages and asked what work that was being done to reduce these.
Mike Woodhead, Chief Finance Officer, Bury CCG explained that the review of care packages was being carried out on a case by case basis. It was anticipated that this work would see a net reduction in costs relating to high cost packages.
· Councillor D’Albert referred to the Dedicated Schools Grant and the recovery plan relating to this and asked how this would affect individual schools.
Steve Goodwin, Head of Strategic Business and Finance - Children, young People and Culture explained that work will be carried out with individual schools on a case by case basis if any issues were to arise. There had been full consultation with schools.
· Councillor D’Albert asked whether there would be any safeguards to make sure that the deficit didn’t build up again.
Steve explained that there was work being done in the areas where the high costs had been identified to reduce those costs, Regular monitoring is being undertaken which will identify and predict any issues which can then be dealt with as early as possible.
· Councillor D’Albert referred to the out of borough placements and permanent exclusions and asked what work was being done in those areas.
Karen Dolton reported that an application had been submitted to the Department for Education to build a special free school in the borough which would bring the out of borough placements back in and offer support to permanently excluded pupils. It was also reported that Inclusion Managers were working with schools to support them and work with pupils at risk of exclusion. There had been no permanent exclusions across the borough in the current academic year.
· Councillor Caserta referred to the procurement of goods and services and asked what was in place to ensure that the Council wasn’t overspending.
Geoff Little explained that the Council provides a procurement service to schools and nearly all schools take up this offer. It was also explained that the Council was in the process of establishing a Corporate Core which will bring together services and procurement would be part of this.
It was agreed:
That the contents of the report be noted.