To consider the Quarter Two Budget Monitoring (page 43 – 82) and MTFP Update (page 83 – 108) reports scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 15 December.
The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise and comment on the report and if required make recommendations or observations as appropriate.
Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor Drew Mellor, Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Transformation.
The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
Quarter Two Budget Monitoring Report - The Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Transformation presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these minutes in the Minute Book. The Portfolio Holder and officers addressed a number of points raised by the Board including:
A Board member asked about the newly created local satellite special schools, the aim of which was to ensure that children would be able to go to a school closer to home. However, it was noted that these were creating an additional budge pressure in SEND transport. It was noted that the cost increase was due to the significant upturn in the number of EHCPs and until the local places were actually delivered, the additional EHCPs created a significant pressure on SEND travel.
A Councillor questioned the staffing issues within Children’s Services. The Leader was asked whether the Council’s offer was competitive and whether recruiting people from outside the area required the Council to pay more. It was noted that the Director of Children’s Services had explained that the Council’s offer wasn’t an issue in recruitment. It was thought that the Council were paying competitively and recruitment wasn’t an issue. The Leader advised that there was still a difficulty in recruiting across Children’s Services and there were a large number of agency staff. However, this wasn’t an issue particular to BCP. The leadership structure in children’s services had been fully recruited. They were also actively recruiting from overseas and working with university to increase local links.
It was suggested that it was important that Councillors were able to look at the differences in rates paid across the country and that the Council would need to pay a premium in this area due to the cost of living and help the service move away from the over reliance on agency workers.
In response to requests to follow up on this issue the Leader undertook to advise the Director of Children’s Services that this had been a line of enquiry around the budget children’s services. The Chairman undertook to write to the Chairman of Children’s Services O&S Committee to ask them to address the issue. It was noted that the Council was going through a pay review and harmonisation exercise and also that this issue may extend to staff within adult social care. A Board member commented that there may be other reasons why people work for an agency other than money and this should be looked into.
· A Board member commented on the workforce pressure in social care and asked whether there were plans to expand the budget in this area to address the problem. It was noted that there were plans to recruit, retrain and motivate the workforce there was also work with Tricuro on plans to upscale recruitment, which provided an opportunity to develop a grow your own project. There was a strategy around budget pressures to look at how the Council could be more interventionist by, for example working on practices which would allow people able to remain in their own home for longer before they moved into more traditional residential care as they had better wraparound care in their homes.
· A Councillor asked about the Covid central budget being release leaving a balance of £4million for future covid pressures and questioned whether that money belonged to the Council or was attributable to a government grant and could be challenged in future. It was noted that it was Council money that had been given through a government grant.
· The Chairman raised an issue concerning the Bournemouth and Poole neighbourhoods HRA capital programme in that in order to manage the capital budget for Wilkinson Drive the number of properties had been reduced from 13 to 11. This was a significant reduction the Chairman hoped that costs could be retained within what was allowed and asked if there was a mechanism for containing cost escalations on these types of projects.
· The Leader commented that this was something which could be looked into. The Chief Financial Officer advised that in a lot of cases there were fixed bill contracts but depending on the circumstances it couldn’t be guaranteed bt generally these issues seldomly occurred. In terms of capital programmes there were issues leading to some revisions of the scheme costs. This had been addressed through the appropriate governance forums. The Council had taken an approach to recognise an asset cost over its lifetime and to fund this through borrowing.
Medium Term Financial Plan Update - The Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Transformation presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'C' to these minutes in the Minute Book. There were no comments or questions from the Board on this report.
The Chairman thanked the Leader for attending to present this and the previous report.