Agenda and draft minutes
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To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Maggie Callaghan, John Fletcher and Joolz Scarlett. An offline apology was received from the Vice Chairman during the meeting. Stephen McCormac was no longer a governor for Forest Bridge School, and therefore no longer a member of the Forum.
To receive any Declarations of Interest.
To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 November 2020 be approved.
To receive the above report.
James Norris, Head of Finance, introduced the report as an update on the in-year financial position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). The forecast for the deficit budget position at the end of March 2021 was being compiled. The total DSG allocation for 2021/22 was £124mn.
The projected in-year deficit was £388,000 against the Local Authority (LA) administered budget of £65mn, which adversely moved the budget by £180,000, compared to the position reported in the last meeting. This was due to increased cost and volume of placements in independent special schools from Autumn 2020 and projected until Spring 2021. There could be an additional £300,000 overspend due to factors such as the individual provision for pupils, the matrix payments, and bandings of the children. Data from Christmas 2020 onwards had shown a likely increase in overspend.
A deficit of £1.4mn was projected (1.1.% of the overall budget allocation), and if the £300,000 did materialise, the overspend would increase to £1.7mn (1.4% of the overall budget allocation). Due to the deficit position moving forward, a mandatory submission of a Deficit Management Plan (DMP) was required, which demonstrated how the LA would recover from the deficit position. The biggest overspend was in the High Needs Block.
The Chairman asked how the deficit position of the LA compared to neighbouring authorities and the Panel was informed that the LA was in a more favourable position than Richmond and Kingston, though nationally, all authorities were in a similar position.
Kevin McDaniel, Director of Children’s Services, said several issues led to this, including a need for a review in the system, with an upcoming Special Educational Needs (SEN) review to take place by the Department for Education (DfE). Activities that previously allowed a drive to 0% rise of costs for non-maintained special schools could no longer be exercised during COVID-19 due to national guidance to protect suppliers. There was also a spike in children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and additional challenges due to the loss of normality.
The Chairman asked if the DfE was to provide leeway due to COVID-19, and the Forum was informed that regulations had tightened since the pandemic and therefore a DMP was required. The Chairman raised his concerns about children not being funded enough to meet their support needs.
(Sarah Cottle joined the meeting.)
The Panel noted the item.
Dedicated Schools Grant Budget Allocation 2021/22 and Deficit Management Plan
To receive the above report.
James Norris said the purpose of the report was to provide an update on the indicative settlement in 2021-22, the submission of the draft Authority Pro-forma Tool (APT) and the DMP.
The Chairman asked if the DMP could be delayed until the full impact of COVID-19 could be assessed, and the Forum was informed it would be unlikely to have a definitive plan and caveats would be put in place to allow variances.
The Chairman asked for Councillors present in the meeting to inform the Council that any action was short-term, with a review of longer-term plans post COVID-19. Councillor Hunt affirmed she would take this forward.
James Norris said there was an increase in the Schools Block, which would be passed onto the schools directly through the local formula. As the budget setting exercise was undertaken in advance of the December 2020 settlement, there was a need for budget realignment in the new financial year.
(Councillor Knowles joined the meeting.)
The LA was required to submit the draft Authority Pro-forma Tool (APT) to the Education Skills Funding Agency to ensure allocation of funding was going to academies and maintained schools equitably. This was to be approved by the Council on 23 February 2021.
The Chairman asked for a summary of why there was an increasing deficit going forward, and the Forum was informed that since 2016/17, the budget was in deficit. The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) deficit was steadily rising and there was approximately £1mn overspend in the High Needs Block (HNB). There were opportunities and underspends in the central block and growth fund, which had been factored in and could be released this year. The DSG deficit was forecasted to be £1.4mn in March 2021 and school balances had reduced over the same period by 40%. More money was going out of the system than in.
The Chairman said the growth in the HNB was worrying and the schools that had built up resilience were having to use them to close the gap within the budgets.
James Norris said that using trend data, it was forecasted that by 2024/25, if no changes in processes and practices were made, there would be a deficit in all blocks amounting to £8.2mn. It was proposed to pay off the current £1.4mn deficit in the next four financial years and reduce costs by £400,000 annually.
Kevin McDaniel explained the proposed list of DMP actions to help reduce costs, including:
To receive the above report.
James Norris introduced the item and said the purpose of the report was to provide a summary of the results of the consultation from November 2020, decide which budget model should be implemented, give an update on the Growth Fund allocation 2021/22 and decide the proposed de-delegation rates for 2021/22 for maintained schools.
Three models were proposed by the local authority, following response from the consultation. The only difference between Model 1 and Model 2 was the minimum funding guarantee (MFG) at 0.5% and 1.5% respectively.
A total of 23 schools (39%) responded to the consultation representing 8,660 pupils (40%). This was an increase on previous response rates and efforts would be made to increase this response rate further for next year.
Of the schools that responded to the consultation:
It was noted that the lump sum would increase from £120,821 to £123,960 per school, while in the initial modelling, the increase was anticipated to be 40% higher. Factors that decreased the additional funding included a 30% increase in the eligibility of pupil’s free school meals and a shift in the number of pupils attracting the Low Prior Attainment funding.
Members voted on the adoption of Model 1.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the adoption of Model 1 be approved.
James Norris said the indicative growth fund for the next financial year was £680,000, based on the forecasted demand on the future level of placements for pupils.
It was proposed that the de-delegation rates for 2020/21 for maintained primary and secondary rates to remain the same. Due to the shift in Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index and deprivation, there was less funding available to support behavioural support services based on the current costing model. Funding received was approximately £26,000 and therefore it was recommended to continue the level of service for the 2021/22 financial year. This was considering the pandemic and the ability to use some of the carried forward to fund the shortfall.
Michael Wallace said one should be prudent to use carried over figures to support the behaviour support team for when schools reopened, in case there were additional needs the team needed to aid in. Moving forward, the impact against cost of each team needed to be reviewed.
On behalf of the primary sector Mike Wallace approved the ... view the full minutes text for item 12.