Budget Report 2019/20
The Lead Member for Finance and Economic Development introduced the proposed 2019/20 budget report.
Cabinet were informed that the budget for 2019/20 had been set against a national backdrop of continuing political uncertainty, including the impact of Brexit, and demand and costs of social care in both adults and children’s services. The authority had to continue to provide quality services from a prudent resource base.
There were pressures during the current financial year that had been taken into consideration during the budget build process these included a gross overspend in children’s services of £4.0m, predominantly for children-in-care, and resident advantage card parking charge discounts £0.7m. It was good to see an unexpected increased use of the discount but this did create a budget pressure.
Forecasted general reserves for the end of the current financial year are £8.2 million which was £2.3 million above the minimum recommended level.
The Lead Member went on to explain that service spend would increases by £11.2m on the 2018/19 revenue budgets. £5 million of this increased budget would be for children’s and adults services so the vulnerable in our society could be protected.
The prudent budget allowed weekly bin collections to continue, parking discounts for advantage card holder continues, environmental health, enforcement, CCTV, Community Wardens and tree inspections are all being invested in. There was going to be £0.5 million invested in community facilities such as libraries, leisure centres, Norden Farm, the Guildhall and York House Windsor resident access.
To help fund this growth the Council needed to be run efficiently and thus there were proposed efficiency savings of £5.5 million and additional grant income of £1.3 million.
The budget also continued to ensure £300k being made available for grants , even though other authorities were cutting their grant allocations. There would be prudent extra payments of £4 million into the pension fund to cover the shortfall caused by low risk investment income and it was expected that there would be £2.2 million received from the business rates pilot scheme.
Base Council Tax would be increasing by 2.99% to £961.33 Band D still remaining the lowest outside London. The Adult Social Care Levy to remain unchanged at £74.74 for Band D. It was expected that by the end of 2019 / 20 reserves will have grown by an additional £3.5 million taking it to £11.7 million which would be £5.9 million above the recommended minimum level. The Lead Member explained that the increased reserves was to protect the authority from the economic and political uncertainties in forthcoming years.
There would be £25.7 million gross investment in capital projects which included £12.7 million invested in highways, £2.9 million on community infrastructure and £100k for place making in the centre of Windsor.
The Lead Member informed that it was expected to see borrowing increasing to £80 million by the end of 2019 / 20. Foreseeable property company receipts, government grants and developer contributions materially exceed the level of commitments.
The Chairman mentioned that the Lead Member for Finance and Economic Development would not be standing at the next local elections and he thanked him for all his hard work and contributions over the years. He also thanked officers for their work on the budget.
The Lead Member for Children’s Services informed Cabinet that children’s services within the Royal Borough faced significant challenges with an increasing demand for services to protect vulnerable children; this mirrors the national evidenced pressure. The Local Government Association estimated that children’s services across the UK already faced a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain the current levels of service.
There were 75,420 looked after children in England, the highest level since the 1980s, and the number of children supported through a child protection plan to keep them safe from harm had increased by 84% over the past decade.
This was reflected in the local position in RBWM with 45 more Education Health and Care plans than a year ago (6%); additional workload at the front door of children’s social care requiring 16% more staff, and a month on month increase in the number of children in our care.
The Lead Member informed Cabinet that the majority of the spend within children’s services delivered on our statutory duties to keep children safe and have access to education. The most significant areas were:
· Child protection and children in our care (including placements at a cost of £8m) and associated services
· Home to school transport for both mainstream and additional needs pupils with about 190 routes for 1200 pupils costing £2.4m a year.
· Development of Education, Health and Care plans, 943 at the 31/1/2019, is in addition to the DSG funded placement costs.
· Pupil support services through the Early Help Hub (includes Education Psychology, Education Welfare and services for excluded pupils).
Despite the financial pressures and additional numbers coming into care, performance of Children’s Services had steadily improved year on year since transferring to Achieving for Children, and the Royal Borough is meeting or exceeding targets including:
· Children receiving a review within six weeks of birth.
· Single assessments completed within 45 working days.
· Initial Child Protection Conferences held within timescales.
· Children in care visited within statutory timescales.
· Eligible children in care with an up-to-date personal education plan.
The Lead Member said that there have been many reports that there were cuts to Children’s Services in this budget which will particularly harm the most vulnerable. These were fundamentally untrue.
She was delighted to again reaffirm that the proposed Children’s Service budget for 2019/20 shows a net increase in the contractual arrangements with Achieving for Children of £3,170,000, from £21,356,000 to a total of £24,526,000.
The contract with Achieving for Children was for the delivery of all statutory and discretionary children’s services in the Royal Borough.
This budget meets the level of expenditure required to protect vulnerable children and continues to invest for the benefit of all children in the Borough.
It supports 279 FTE staff which is the same number of FTE as a year ago, because that is the resource necessary to fulfil our duty to vulnerable children.
The Lead Member highlighted investments in this year’s budget which added value for children in the Borough:
· £100,000 - Support for seven Requires Improvement schools that are striving to be Good or Outstanding.
· £45,000 - Support for the development of PVI settings to offer free places to 2 year olds and 30 hours offer for some families.
· £35,000 - Provision of an Area SENCO to support in schools SENCO’s share good ideas and work together so that any child with additional needs get support (about 17% of the current school population from the last census as judged by schools)
· £60,000 - Continued investment in four social worker training unit each year to sustain a vibrant workforce
· £60,000 - Schools business service to enable schools to focus on education by providing contracts and escalation management for meals, waste, kitchen equipment and a range of other services
· £10,000 - Support for employers (such as Legoland) to ensure that in addition to employment licences, children working in the borough have appropriate jobs and working conditions.
· £100,000 - Provision of youth sessions for ages 8 to 18 across the borough which support local communities, particular groups, and individuals to help them achieve more. More focus than ever of those who need the support to engage with education, family or community
· £100,000 - Provision of Children’s Centres sessions for families and young children who need help to develop the skills and confidence to connect with local communities, each other and other organisations that will give the children a good start in life.
The Lead Member informed that the most significant factor in the additional £3.2m going into the Children’s Services budget this year was the spending required to meet demand. During 2018/19 this council had reported the increasing costs of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children. This had been made up of elements of increased cost, offset by some efficiencies and savings in delivery.
The evidence of the past year had been used to estimate the increase in costs for the coming year without cutting services, and these growth elements were estimated at almost £3.5 million for 2019/20. This growth includes:
· A reasonable forecast of a net growth of one more child coming into the care of the local authority each month.
· An estimated inflation figure for the costs of external placements, treatments and support costs.
· Provision for the current level of agency and locum staff.
· Continued investment in the SEND service resources.
While facing the increased demand, council officers had worked very hard to secure reductions in cost whilst delivering the same service to our vulnerable children, young people and their families.
These savings included:
· Reducing the proportion of social care and early help posts covered by agency staff from 21% to 10%, including recruiting eight social workers and managers.
· Securing better rates for long-term placements for young people who need stable non-family placements.
· With 9 out of 10 schools currently judged to be Good or Outstanding we have spent less on critical support for schools and have been able to focus on the leadership of initiatives to increase the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
The Lead Member informed that it was reasonable to expect these savings would continue into 2019/20.
The operational focus on supporting vulnerable children would go hand in hand with making sure that every pound of public money would be spent in a way that makes a difference for the children of the Borough.
She informed that some people would ask if there was enough money to support vulnerable children. The analysis in appendix Q of the budget report was clear that the budget had been set prudently without being overly cautious. For example there had been no forecast for unplanned arrival of a large group of young children seeking asylum, as this had not happened in recent years. However, in addition to the £3,170,000 increase in budget for Achieving for Children, the Council's Commissioning team had a contingency of £900,000 for such events in both children's and adults services.
The Lead Member for Children’s Services finished by saying that the 2019/20 budget built on the actual expenditure on services for children with a near £3.2 million increase in the operational budget for the same services. It expected our partners in Achieving for Children to maintain the long standing commitment to the very best value services with open and transparent reporting of actual costs which meant we can maintain the level of services our residents expect and deserve.
This budget continues to invest in the staff and systems that keep children safe and drive improved life chances.
The Lead Member for Adult Services and Social Care informed Cabinet that his area of responsibility were under similar pressures as already prescribed and that although it was welcome people nationally were living longer an aging population provided challenges and pressures.
As with Children’s Services there had been people saying that services in his area were being cut, again this simply was not the case. It was upsetting that these were vulnerable people who were being lied to.
The Lead Member informed Cabinet that it had been decided to use the council tax precept in 2016 / 17 to help build resilience, other authorities did not take this action and are now facing increased pressures. When there were pressure in the system they were not ignored. Investment in Adult Social Care was above resources the council received with £27 million being invested over three years.
The increased investment in his area covers areas including increasing nursing dementia beds which supports delayed transfer in care as well as mental health support. There was also an emphasis in preventative measures, mental health and alcohol and drugs. Optalis had been rated as ‘good’ by the Quality and Care Commission and support would continue.
The Lead Member was pleased to say that the Royal Borough was the highest performer for delayed transfers with none being delayed due to social care. This multi-agency had been a success. Inflation costs had also been funded and additional support had been provided over the winter period. There has been increased preventative work and work to reduce social inclusion.
The Lead Member finished by stating that if due to demand that extra resources were required these would be provided.
The Lead Member for Environmental Services (including parking, flooding, housing and performance management) informed that he wished to thank officers for the work they had done on the homeliness strategy and the efforts to decrease the use of temporary accommodation, improved accommodation , the use of SWEP throughout the winter which resulted in 22 people being placed in accommodation. Every Adult Matters co-ordinator had been a success helping 9 people find accommodation. There had also been sweeps in the parks removing knifes and needles to help keep people safe.
The Lead Member for Culture and Communities thanked the Lead Member for Finance and Economic Development for the additional funds within her area including £1 million in parks, the Clewer Pavilion and safety initiatives. There was £350k for Ockwells Park for parking and improved equipment and £150k to make Battle Mead park a delightful open space for residents. These were investments into areas that were important to our residents.
There was also other areas of investment within her area including £87k for improvement to Maidenhead library as well as continued investment throughout the borough. There was also £58k earmarked for Nordens Farm, £63k for Windsor Old Court and £50k for the registration service. The Lead member also provided an update on work on the Braywick Leisure Centre with the steelwork due to be up in three months’ time.
The Lead Member for Highways, Transport and Windsor informed that there was £12.7 million was being spent on highway infrastructure and that this would continue for the next four years. Examples of work being planned was £300k for footpath improvements, £850k for Elizabeth Bridge and £100k for Cookham Bridge. Investment was going into cycling with a 300 spaces cycle hub at Maidenhead station with CCTV coverage and our roads were rated as the second cleanest nationally. Local Enterprise Investment had also been secured for Maidenhead missing links and for Windsor.
The Chairman thanked the Leader of the Opposition for spotting an error in the report that had increased certain parking for advantage card users, this error had been amended.
The Leader of the Opposition wished to have it added to the minute her appreciation for the work of the Lead Member for Finance and Economic Development.
The Chairman said that there would be £50k added to support the Eton information centre and an additional £4.5 million to cover the purchase of waste vehicles as part of the new waste contract.
The Chairman also highlighted how Slough, being a Labour held authority, had a council tax support rate of 20% and thus were asking those who were th most vulnerable to pay far more than in the Royal Borough who had an 8% rate. Their council tax was also a third higher than this budget proposed.
The Lead Member for HR , Legal and IT said it we were delivering for our residents but this was only possible due to the work of our officers and thus there was £300k for staff rewards.
The Waterways Champion highlighted the huge investment being undertaken that would be beneficial to residents and that there was a number of important highway improvements in his ward.
The Principal Member for Neighbourhood Planning and Ascot & the Sunnings said she was delighted with the proposed budget and highlighted spend in the south of the Royal Borough such as road resurfacing work, additional parking and £5 million investment into Charters School for a new maths block.. the Chairman also reminded Cabinet that they had made a pledge for a new leisure centre at the school.
The Principal Member for Ascot Regeneration informed that there had already been significant investment in the area and that he was pleased to see that this would be continued. He highlighted the £100k for a strategy for the high street.
The Lead Member for Finance and Economic Development thanked everyone for their comments and also mentioned that he recommended that the recommendation be changed to say that Cabinet recommended the budget to Council and not that they approved the budget. It was noted that the O&S Panels had not recommended any substantive changes.
The Chairman noted Cllr Werner’s comment regarding CCTV coverage and he would ask officers to investigate.
It was noted that the Corporate Services O&S Panel were yet to consider the proposed budget.
Resolved unanimously: that Cabinet notes the amended report endorses it to Council including the:
i) Detailed recommendations contained in Appendix A which includes a base council tax at Band D of £961.33, including a 2.99% increase of £27.91.
ii) Adult social care precept to remain unchanged at £74.74.
iii) Fees and charges contained in Appendix D.
iv) Capital strategy in Appendix G.
v) Capital programme, shown in Appendices H & I, for the financial year 2019/20.
vi) Prudential borrowing limits set out in Appendix L.
vii) Business rate tax base calculation, detailed in Appendix P, and its use in the council tax requirement in Appendix A.
viii) Deputy Director and Head of Finance in consultation with the Lead Members for Finance and Children’s Services to amend the total schools budget to reflect actual Dedicated Schools Grant levels once received.
ix) Delegation to the Deputy Director and Head of Finance and Lead Member for Finance to include the precept from the Berkshire Fire and Rescue Authority once the precept is announced.