Agenda item

Council Budget 2019/20

(To receive a report by Heather Sandy, Interim Director of Education, which outlines the budget proposals for the next financial year 2019/20 and provides the Committee with the opportunity to scrutinise and make comment on them prior to the Executive meeting on 5 February 2019 when the final budget proposals for 2019/20 will be made)


Consideration was given to a report from Heather Sandy, Interim Director of Education, which outlined the Council's budget proposals for the next financial year 2019/20, based on the four year funding deal announced by the Government as part of the 2016/17 Local Government Finance Settlement.


In guiding the Committee through the report, the Interim Director of Education highlighted that the budget proposals were open to consultation; and that Members of the Committee were invited to consider and comment on them, prior to the Executive meeting on 5 February 2019.


Paragraph 1.4 on page 16 of the report highlighted that in the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, the Secretary of State had announced that the referendum threshold for general Council Tax would be 3% for 2019/20; together with a 2% Council Tax increase for Adult Social Care in 2019/20, which meant that Lincolnshire County Council could increase the Council Tax in 2019/20 by up to 5%.  It was highlighted further that the Executive at its meeting on 18 December 2019 had agreed proposals for the Council's revenue and capital budgets to be put forward as a basis of consultation and had made the decision to consult on a proposed Council Tax increase of 4.95% for 2019/20.


The Committee considered the 2019/20 budget implications for the following commissioning strategies under its remit:


·       Readiness for School;

·       Learn and Achieve;

·       Readiness for Adult Life: and

·       Children are Safe & Healthy.


Details relating to the commissioning strategies' were found on pages 16 to 22 of the report presented.  Particular reference was made to Revenue Budget Proposals for 2019/20 for each of the above mentioned commissioning strategies. 


It was reported that the Readiness for School strategy was not proposing to make any savings or reporting any cost pressures. 


It was highlighted that the Learn and Achieve Strategy was proposing to make savings of £0.259m and that there was a proposed cost pressure of £0.306m.  It was highlighted that the proposed cost pressure within the strategy was for Home to School/College Transport of £0.306m in 2019/20.  This was as a result of the Government's desire to deliver national living wage rises to £9.00 per hour by 2020; and that a lot of individuals delivering transport services were paid at this rate.  It was further highlighted that the Home to School/College Transport budget was a challenging and volatile budget as a result of unfavourable economic conditions and changing legislation.  The budget therefore remained a financial risk to the Council; although the service was taking every step it could to achieve efficiencies.


The Committee was advised that the Readiness for Adult Life strategy was proposing to make a saving of £0.300m; and that there was no cost pressure for 2019/20.  It was noted that the proposed savings of £0.300m related to the Local Authority's legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all young people by providing supported housing accommodation.  The Committee noted that transformational work had resulted in a new accommodation pathway.  This comprised of in-house provision delivering value for money and better outcomes for young people.


It was reported that the Children are Safe and Healthy strategy was proposing to make a saving of £0.250m and had proposed cost pressures of £1.194m in 2019/20.


It was reported further that the proposed savings related to Children's Services insourcing of the 0 - 19 health services in October 2017.  This had enabled savings to be delivered by having a lower cost base infrastructure and through the utilisation of existing Children's Services sites, and a realisation of new ways of delivery.


The Committee noted there had been an increase in the number of Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs); and that the Local Authority was required to fund SGOs (subject to means testing).  It was highlighted that the expected increase had identified a proposed pressure of £0.246m in 2019/20.


In conclusion, the Committee noted that Lincolnshire continued to be one of the most successful local authorities in providing value for money.  However, due to the government's direction of travel, placing additional responsibilities onto local authorities, the financial implications for the authority were unclear.


During discussion, the Committee raised the following points:-


·       The cost pressures affecting the authority as a whole across all areas;

·       The impact of the Government's comprehensive spending review and the Council's Fairer Funding campaign;

·       Most members expressed their support for the 4.95% Council Tax increase; and to the fact that the Council would continue to rely on reserves for the coming years;

·       Some clarification was sought regarding the amount of funding for the SEND project.  Confirmation was given that the figure had not increased and that it was as quoted in the report considered by the Committee at their 19 October 2018 meeting;

·       The impact of the SEND project on Home to School Transport.  Officers confirmed that there would be some cost pressures as it was an anticipated that there would be an increase of 500 places and that this would be modelled over the next five years;

·       A question was asked whether Children's Centres were feeling any impact as a result of the proposed budget.  Officers confirmed that services had been re-configured to provided improved services; and reassurance was given that centres would continue to be refurbished as they continued to receive funding in-line with inflation;

·       Some concern was expressed to the amount of savings made compared to the overall budget.  Particular reference was made to the Readiness for School strategy; and to the fact that the strategy was not proposing to make any savings for 2019/20.  Officers clarified this strategy had made savings in the previous year, and that the services within the strategy operated efficiently;

·       One member expressed concern relating to the 4.95% Council Tax increase.  Officers expressed their sympathy to the proposed increase; and highlighted that residents still expected to receive services.  The Committee was also advised that the cost of delivering children's services in Lincolnshire was one of the lowest in the country;

·       One member enquired whether the service was fully staffed.  Confirmation was give that the budget took into consideration for the service to be fully staffed.  The Committee was advised that the vacancy rate for social workers in Lincolnshire was 4.2%, compared to the national average of 18%.  The Committee was advised further that the service had worked hard to create the right working environment for its staff; and

·       One member enquired whether cost of IT (Mosaic) formed part of the budget proposals.  It was confirmed that this would be part of the corporate infrastructure for the network and systems, and that individual services paid for their own laptops and phones.


Advice was given to the Parent Governor Representative concerning voting rights that a parent governor could only vote on educational matters.


On behalf of the Committee the Chairman extended thanks to the Interim Director of Education and the Head of Finance, Children's Services for their presentation.




(1)    That the Committee agreed to support the proposed council tax increase of 4.95% for the 2019/20 year; and to support the proposed budget for 2019/20 for Children's Services, including the rationale for the cost pressures identified in two of the commissioning strategies:


·       The Learn and Achieve Commissioning Strategy (£306,000); and

·       The Children are Safe and Healthy Commissioning Strategy (£1.194 million).


(2)    That the Committee's comments to the Executive make reference to the impact of the Government's comprehensive spending review, and the Council's Fairer Funding campaign, the outcomes of which were currently unknown.  Given the uncertainties, the Committee's support for the council tax increase, which was above the rate of inflation, was difficult, but the pressures on the Council, including Children's Services, were genuine.  It was also acknowledged that the County Council would continue to rely on reserves for the coming years.

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