Agenda item

Budget Proposals For Services Within The Remit Of The Children, Families & Education Select Committee


The Director of Strategic & Operational Finance introduced the report detailing the draft revenue budget and capital programme for the services within the remit the Committee.


Key points from the report were highlighted, including details of the financial pressures generated by the ongoing inflation, legacy Covid – 19 impacts, cost of living crisis and the additional funding received from government, together with earmarked Council reserves, in order to manage such pressures.  It was reported that the balance budget was set to be achieved through a combination of efficiency savings increases in Council Tax and Fees and Charges.


Budget proposals for 2023/24 had been prepared in the context of a wider strategy addressing the five-year MTFF period.        The latest monitoring position for the 2022/23 financial year reported a net underspend of £61k which would leave uncommitted General Balances at £26,780k entering the 2023/24 financial year.


The Committee noted that Cabinet would consider the budget proposals on 16 February 2023 and the report would include comments from Select Committees. Members were informed that Council would meet to agree the 2023/24 budgets and Council tax levels on 23 February 2023.


Although this had been a challenging budget to set, officers were thanked for providing the detailed and interesting report. It was confirmed that the provisional financial update from Central Government was released in December 2022 and the position was broadly consistent to what had been expected. The report provided an update on the schools budget and this had taken a different route via the Schools Forum in terms of budget setting. Members requested that this document be shared with the Committee.


In response to how confident officers were about being able to make savings of over one million pounds given that there were many demand led and ‘volatile’ areas within the remit of the Select Committee, it was explained that there was a savings and contingency plan in place. The Council had a solid track record of delivering savings in these areas and clear measures had been put in place. There was clear accountability on how savings were delivered.


It was noted that fees and charges proposals in the budget had followed a comprehensive benchmarking exercise and the impacts of what fees and charges could have on demand had been considered. All proposals for charges had been worked with relevant teams.


A Member of the Committeeacknowledged that this was a good news budget in incredibly tough times and circumstances.


In terms of the impact of budget reductions on central education, it was explained that the only savings coming directly out of SEND and education services was to review the higher cost of transport where children were being transported out of the Borough. There would be no impact to education standards. The factors taken into account to decide the cost savings included an understanding of the average unit costs and previous experience.


It was noted that the budgeted subsidy for the early years centres coming from the General Council tax would be removed and additional income would be raised through fees and charges. In setting the budget, inflation had been pitched at circa 5%.


Members questioned whether the proposed 30% increase in fees for Early Years Centres would have any bearing on the centres remaining open. Officers clarified that the proposed withdrawal of the subsidy for Early Years Centres did not pre-judge the decisions around the future of the centres


It was noted that the Council’s capital programme would only include the schemes being implemented and the delivery of a new school in the North of the Borough would be done via the free school route.


The Committee noted that there was lot of pressure on the demand on children’s services but recognised the importance of early help and prevention as a measure to support families and young people. 


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


1.    noted the budget projections contained in the report.

2.    delegate to the Democratic Services Office in conjunction with the Chairman (and in consultation with the Opposition Lead) to agree comments to be submitted to Cabinet.


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