It was noted there was an anticipated £32,000 underspend in Schools Block (centrally retained) due to staff vacancies within the Admissions service.
George Grant confirmed the anticipated DSG projections for 2017-18 was a total overspend of £3.4M across the Schools, Early Years and High Needs blocks.
8.20am: Angela Mellish and Vikram Hansrani arrived at the meeting
Early Years was currently forecasting an underspend of £720,000, which was due to a lower than expected uptake of 30-hour provision. The underspend would be carried into the next academic year. Members noted these figures were best estimate as not all factors were yet known and, for example, would depend on level of uptake of child care entitlement for working parents.
8.25pm: Johnny Kyriacou arrived at the meeting
It was noted that the main area of concern was the High Needs Block (HNB) which had a reported overspend of £4.14M plus and included £1.5M carried forward from 2016/17. The overspend from the previous year reflected that of the current year and commitments were more than budgeted. Further to these pressures, unaccrued invoices from 2016/17, totalling approximately £400,000 had been discovered. It was understood this was in part due to budget management issues and the move in returning the service to the Local Authority (LA). Assurance was given that this would not reoccur and that the SBC team continued to work towards achieving accurate costings. A list of measures to bring the budget back in line had been compiled but there had been an assurance not to transfer monies from the Schools Block. Members were informed that the overspend could not be rectified in the short term.
The Task Group were in discussion about possible methods of saving money, in consultation with schools.
There continued to be concern about bandings and the number of out of borough placements. It was suggested the three special school Headteachers should meet to discuss the latter. A number of long term issues around administration and resources were now becoming evident. It was confirmed there was a strategic plan which it was suggested should be presented to Schools Forum.
Cate Duffy indicated that there were three main issues behind the overspend: underlying pressures with more children with higher needs, administrative issues which were being uncovered and the lack of funding for the residential places at Arbour Vale which should have been made from Social Care and not DSG.
A great deal of work was being applied to make better use of the budget and to support outcomes for children. There was a suggestion that there was sufficient evidence to apply to the ESFA for additional HNB funding. Any actions would be made in full consultation with schools and outcomes would be shared with Schools Forum for discussion.
It was suggested there was a need for a projection of the potential need for places and an understanding of that need. It was queried whether any monies could be recouped If Health and Social Care should have been funding. It was felt it would be difficult to now go back but there was awareness for the future and Health and Social Care were engaging with the process.
As noted, the deficit would be carried forward; although there remained the aim to reduce it in 2018/19. It was pointed out that funding up to the age of 25 would also impact. All background evidence could be provided if required.
It was noted that the Borough’s situation reflected that nationally, with 78% of LAs reporting an overspend on their HNBs (an average of £2M).
The meeting moved to item number 6 on the agenda: