The 2021/22 budget proposals will be scrutinised with consideration of relevant service area budgets by Scrutiny Committees with the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee considering both its own budget responsibilities as well as any issues raised by the Children’s Scrutiny Committee and the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, to produce a single set of recommendations from all Scrutiny Committees.
This approach enables all Scrutiny Members to question and challenge the budget proposals across services, to better understand the implications of the budget proposals across the Council and to speak with one voice to make effective recommendations to Cabinet and Council.
The proceedings of all Scrutiny Committees will be webcast and publicised through normal channels including Twitter and Facebook.
The Council must have full regard to and consider the impact of any proposals in relation to equalities prior to making any decisions, as set out in equality impact assessments, and any identified risks and mitigation action required.
There will be an opportunity for members of the public to address each Scrutiny Committee meeting and make oral representations/presentations on any matter relating to the proposed budget, in line with the public participation scheme.
At this and other Scrutiny Committees in the current cycle, Members are asked to identify salient issues within each Committee’s areas of responsibility, to examine the general thrust of the budget and take an overview of priorities and prospects.
At this meeting Chief Officers/ Heads of Services will report on
· the Cabinet’s Target Budget for Services and likely implications of the 2021/22 target for individual areas of service (e.g. in percentage terms compared to current levels) and how those areas have been prioritised;
· any comparisons between the current year and next year’s proposals for the major service areas, to illustrate the scale of change within those activities and how the budget has been allocated across services in those years (to illustrate changes of emphasis or priority);
· any “alternative delivery models” or other initiatives contemplated for given services and how it is thought that these may reduce costs; and
· impact assessments undertaken in relation to the draft budget.
Report and Budget 2021/22 and Impact Assessment
Joint Report of the County Treasurer and the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CT/21/03) on the proposed budget for Children’s Services for 2020/21, attached
NB: An overview of the impact assessments for all service areas entitled ‘Budget 2021/22 Impact Assessment’ has been made available to all Members of the Council so that Scrutiny Committees have access to all equality impact assessments undertaken as part of the budget’s preparation. Members are asked to consider the contents and retain it for future meetings, accepting that individual assessments may be updated with time. Members must have full regard to and consider the impact of any proposals in relation to equalities for this (and other) budget meeting prior to making any decisions. Scrutiny Committees will no doubt wish to be assured that risk assessments and projections are adequate and that the evidence supports the assumptions made in the formulation of the budget.
The Committee noted that the proposed budget for the 2021/22 financial year would be scrutinised by individual Scrutiny Committees.
The Chairs of the Children’s Scrutiny Committee and the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee would present any relevant resolutions and an overview of those issues arising to the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Committee. This Committee would also consider the draft budget proposals within its own remit, providing an opportunity for Scrutiny Members to comment on proposals for the Council’s Budget in its entirety. The resulting resolutions from Scrutiny would be reported to Cabinet and Council.
This would follow the opportunity for individual Scrutiny Committees – at this meeting – to have an initial overview of the budget proposals and examine them to identify any specific issues or areas of interest that might be considered at the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Committee for incorporation into any recommendations to Cabinet and Council.
The Committee then considered the joint report of the County Treasurer and the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CT/21/03) on the provisional financial settlement made by Government and the spending targets set by the Cabinet for each service area which included inflation, commitment and service prioritisation reductions. The Report also detailed the proposed medium-term capital programme for Children’s Services and how it was funded.
The Cabinet, at its meeting of 9th December 2020, had set Revenue Budget targets for 2021/22. That Report had also updated on the recent Spending Review (SR2020) and presented Budget Targets for 2021/22, which were set out in in full at paragraph 3 of its Report and represented an overall increase of £28.4 millions or 5.2% (based on Revenue Spending Targets for 2021/22 of just over £571 millions).
In terms of the Spending Review 2020, this confirmed a one-year spending review, not the three years hoped for, but with the economic and financial impact of the Pandemic this had been reduced to one year.
This Report also outlined the key messages from SR2020 that would impact next year’s budget. Some of these included:
× Core Spending Power to increase by 4.5%;
× A new Social Care grant of £300 millions (nationally);
× The Council Tax increase that would trigger the need for a referendum was 2%;
× The option to set an Adult Social Care Precept of up to 3%;
× Current Social Care grants would continue next year;
× A public sector pay freeze, except for those earning less than £24,000;
× The National Living Wage would increase by 2.2% to £8.91 per hour;
× A grant of £670 million nationally to offset some of the impact of the Pandemic on the Council Tax Base;
× A Council Tax Income Guarantee Scheme to compensate authorities for 75% of irrecoverable losses in the current year;
× The current New Homes Bonus scheme would continue;
× The Fairer Funding Review, 75% Business Rate Retention and Business Rates Reset had been delayed; and
× COVID funding of £1.55 billions nationally; along with the continuation of the 75% COVID Sales Fees and Charges compensation scheme into the first quarter of 2021/22.
A number of grants (likely ringfenced) had also been announced including Cyber Security modernisation, Test and Trace, Personal Protective Equipment, Rough Sleepers, Domestic Abuse, Troubled Families, School Transport Capacity, Secure Children’s Homes, Social Housing Decarbonisation, Roads Maintenance & upgrades, Cycling, High Street Regeneration and Levelling up for local infrastructure.
The Capital Programme for 2021/22 to 2025/26 would be presented to Cabinet at the February Budget meeting.
However, at the Cabinet meeting on the 13th January, revised spending targets were presented following the Provisional Settlement for 2021/22 which was received on the 17th December.
The Provisional Settlement for the County Council was as follows:
Revenue Support Grant
Business Rates Central Government Top Up
New Homes Bonus
Rural Services Delivery Grant
Social Care Support Grant SR20
Social Care Support Grant SR19
Improved Better Care Fund
Council Tax Support Grant
Notwithstanding the targets set by Cabinet in December (Revenue Spending Targets of just over £571 millions), much had happened, including a new variant of the Coronavirus and another national lockdown which had led to a review of those Targets.
The proposed changes were:
In summary, the proposed Budget Targets had increased by just under £7.3 millions to nearly £578.5 millions, an increase of 6.6% on the 2020/21 Budget.
The revised Budget Targets for 2021/22 were as follows.
The budget for Adult Care & Health was £282,435 millions, a net change of £21.6 millions or 8.3%. For Children’s Services, this was £158,267 millions, the net change being £11,398 millions (7.8%). Community Health, Environment & Prosperity was £39,873 millions, with the net change of £81,000 or 0.2%. For Corporate Services £40,387 millions, a net increase of £2,821 millions (7.5%) and in relation to Highways, Infrastructure Development & Waste £57,520 millions, a decrease of £307,000 (-0.5%).
The Committee were reminded that its consideration of the draft Children’s Services budget was just part of the process of setting the County Council’s budget which, following this meeting, would culminate in the Cabinet meeting on 12 February 2021 formulating a budget for consideration by the County Council on 18 February 2021.
The Chief Officer and Heads of Service commented on the likely implications of the 2021/22 target for individual service areas, confirming that the overall approach had been to strike a balance between the reality of the financial challenges facing the Council and providing sustainable support services against the increasing demands of front-line services and operational demands.
The Leadership Group commentary in the Report referred to the difficulties experienced in the past 12 months, the associated costs with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and preparations to support residents and businesses to leave the EU. Teams across the Council had worked fast to adapt and establish new ways of working to continue delivering services and information to the people of Devon. The overall financial impact of leaving the EU on Devon’s local economy - alongside the impact of COVID-19 - was still largely unknown and supporting the local business community remained a priority for the Council.
The Head of Services referred to service specific issues as outlined in the Report, including:
Children’s Social Care:
The Report also contained the detailed budget proposals for Children’s Services prepared in line with the targets referred to above, reflecting the different pressures and influences faced by services. The Children’s Services base budget was £158,267 millions (an increase of 7.8% from 2020/21), and included inflation and pressures of £13,787 millions and required savings and income initiatives of £2,389 millions.
Under the Equality Act 2010, the County Council had a legal duty to give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations when making decisions about services. Where relevant, Impact Assessments were carried out to consider how best to meet this duty, which included mitigating against the negative impact of service reductions.
The Report before the Committee referred to the Budget 2021/22 Impact Assessment, circulated prior to the meeting, giving an overview of the impact assessments for all service areas for the attention of Members so they were aware of the equality impact assessments undertaken as part of the budget’s preparation, that any risk assessments and projections were adequate and the evidence supported the assumptions made in the formulation of the budget. Also bearing in mind that the preparation of Impact Assessments were a dynamic process and that individual assessments for specific proposals may need to be updated with time, Members of the Council must have full regard to and consider the impact of any proposals in relation to equalities prior to making any decisions and any identified significant risks and mitigating action required.
Specific issues and observations arising from the current budget proposals raised at the meeting included the following:
The Committee placed on record its thanks to all staff and officers within Children’s Services for their continued hard work and dedication throughout this year and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was MOVED by Councillor Hannaford, SECONDED by Councillor Biederman, and
RESOLVED that the Children’s Scrutiny Committee:
a) £5.3 millions for looked after children;
b) £1.7 millions to increase staffing capacity for Corporate Parenting and other front line teams;
c) £791,000 for inflationary pressures;
d) Planned savings of £2 millions.
Cabinet be asked to:
A. Provide additional support for public health nursing
B. Address the SEND high needs funding block deficit
C. Provide funding based on the number of EHCPs not solely deprivation.
D. review year on year funding arrangements and grant based initiatives to support financial certainty and longer-term planning particularly regarding early help and inclusion.
E. Streamline the grant application process
For the work programme:
- Future scrutiny work on value for money comparisons with other authorities – particularly those authorities who are highly rated by Ofsted.
- Further understanding of mental health support
- School Transport cost developments