Agenda item

Forecast Draft Outturn 2023/24 - Period 8

Presented By:Mark Dickenson - Assistant Director of Finance and Strategy

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

To note the forecast draft outturn for 2023/24 as at period 8.

Minutes:

The Assistant Director of Finance and Strategy presented the report which set out the draft outturn for 2023/24 as at Period 8.  The report set out the material financial issues which had been identified since the budget had been set in February 2023.

 

The forecast outturn position for the General Fund was an overspend of £8.552m and an overspend of £121k for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).  The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) was forecasting a £9.019m overspend.

 

The Children’s Trust were forecasting an overspend of £24.577m, of which the cost to the Council was £10.853m.  The main pressure within the Children’s Trust related to placements for children in care.  If these pressures were not mitigated this would pose a significant financial risk to the Council.

 

During discussion on the report, the following key points were made:

 

i.     In response to a question as to what measures had been put in place to deal with the demand in adults services, the Executive Director advised that a number of actions had been put in place.  The directorate was looking to deliver around £5m of savings during 2024/25.  New activity introduced included increased client contributions, a programme of work around assistive technology, review of high care packages, increasing the number of single-handed care packages and working with the Children’s Trust around transitions.

 

ii.    It was accepted that it would be difficult to find savings but how would management know that the proposed savings would not affect the standard of care provided and how did staff feel about the move towards more single-handed care?  In response, the Executive Director advised that the aim was to make services more efficient and not reduce the level of care.  It was important that the right conditions were in place for staff and it would be necessary to ensure that it was safe to go to single-handed care.  It would be risk assessed before any changes.

 

iii.   How would the work around transitions be quantified?  The Executive Director advised work would be done around preventative proposals and supporting the Children’s Trust with commissioning activity.  It was better to work with families to manage their needs.  There would be a number of measures in place including looking at outcomes, reviewing cases with the Trust through strengths based practice and case file audits.  The Accountability Board for SEND was also  being refreshed.

 

iv.   In response to a question as to why there was an overspend for the Children’s Trust, officers advised that there had been an increase in staffing and placement costs.  There were pressures in recruiting staff which required the use of agency staff, who were more expensive, and therefore this put a pressure on the budget.

 

v.    In response to a question to the Executive Member on how he scrutinised the budgets, the Executive Member explained that the budget was owned by all members and officers of the Council.  Month-by-month monitoring reports were considered and this was also done on a day to day basis by officers.  The Executive met weekly and also met before the Executive meeting to examine the reports in detail.  The non-demand services were performing very well. 

 

vi.   Having a high level of vacancies within Finance and Performance teams  was a risk to the Council, how was this risk being managed?  In response, officers advised that both the Performance and Internal Audit teams were now at full complement.  This meant that the Audit Plan was being delivered and performing well.  External contractors in Audit were brought in if needed, but it was acknowledged that this was a difficult area for recruitment.

 

vii.  In relation to the deficit on the DSG, was there a potential liability on the Council?  In response, officers advised that there was potentially a liability if the statutory override was removed by the government.  It was acknowledged that not enough money was going into the high needs block.  There was money in reserves, but it needed to be remembered that once reserves were spent, they were gone.  When reserves were used, there needed to be an exit strategy and for them to be replenished.  If the government stated that we needed to cover the deficit, we would be in a better position than some other authorities.  The statutory override had been extended until March 2026 and we would be looking at ways to reduce the deficit.  We needed to working with the government to develop a recovery plan.  A bid had been made for an alternative provision unit and we were also looking at more support in mainstream schools through high needs units, however this was a challenge nationally.

 

RESOLVED:

 

To note the draft outturn report for 2023/24 as at Period 8.

Supporting documents: