West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

High Needs Block Budget Proposals 2020/21 (Jane Seymour)

Minutes:

Ian Pearson introduced the report, which set out the current financial position of the high needs budget for 2019/20 and the position known so far for 2020/21, including the likely shortfall. It also set out some of the saving options and some invest to save proposals.

Ian Pearson reported that the report had not changed significantly since it last came to the Schools’ Forum in December. Figures within the report were based on the 0.25% transfer being agreed however a decision was still required on this. The budget for the High Needs Block (HNB) would be decided at the next round of meetings.

Paragraph 3.3 of the report set out that savings of £219k had been implemented in 2017/18 and a further £306k in 2018/19. Despite these savings, a budget was set in 2018/19 which included a planned overspend of £703k. The budget set for 2019/20 included a planned overspend of £1.6m.

Paragraph 3.3 detailed that if the Schools Block transfer was agreed then the total net shortfall in the 2020-21 HNB Budget would be £3,374,029. This included a predicted overspend of £2,209,793.

The table on page 73 of the report gave a clear summary of the position of the HNB and how the budget was allocated, including the likely outturn position. The extra money from the Department for Education (DfE) had been factored into the figures.

Ian Pearson continued and highlighted that Appendix A on page 75 of the report provided further detail on each element of the budget. It was clear that the level of increase was not meeting the level of demand and it was becoming increasingly difficult to meet the level of difficulties being present by children.

Section six under Appendix A detailed the invest to save proposals based on the 0.25% transfer if agreed.

Ian Pearson reported that Appendix B on page 89 of the report provided three saving options. He commented that if all the savings were taken then the amount saved would not offset the overspend in its entirety. Services included in the savings options included the Specialist Inclusion Support Service, PRU Outreach and the Cognition and Learning Team. Each option provided elements for consideration that involved reducing or removing the service. Implications and risks of taking each saving were also provided.

Ian Pearson reported that the Heads’ Funding Group (HFG) had considered the saving options and had been reluctant to support any of the savings because of the negative impact that had been caused by cutting such services in the past. If the Schools’ Forum wished to pursue any or all of the saving options then more detail could be brought to the next round of meetings. Other areas could also be included if desired.

Appendix C on page 91 of the report provided evaluation and impact data on each of the services included as part of the saving options.

David Ramsden queried progress with the SEMH Service contract. Ian Pearson reported that the contract had been supported by the Schools’ Forum and there had been more than one bidder. Further information on this area  would need to be considered under Part II.

Jonathon Chishick commented on the nature of the saving proposals and that they were similar to what was being proposed if the 0.25% of funding was agreed, which he felt was counterproductive. Ian Pearson reported that officers had been asked to present savings options and most could be categorised as early intervention services.

Gemma Piper referred to page 75 of the report regarding place funding and referred to a point that she had also raised at the HFG, in that the table provided the number of places rather than the number of pupil’s accessing the service. If actual pupil numbers were not provided then it was not known how many pupils were actually using the service.  Ian Pearson explained that places were allocated to provisions including the resource base, PRU, Special Schools and further education. Problems were encountered in that the number of places could vary but were capped. Further funding could not be obtained for increased numbers and places had to be taken from other settings. Gemma Piper stated that at the last meeting she had queried the level of need. If more children were accessing the service then the actual numbers of children should be included. It was agreed that actual numbers would be added to the table.

The Chairman invited members of the Forum to vote on whether the saving options included within the report should be pursued. John Hewitt proposed that the saving options should not be pursued and this was seconded by Catie Colston. At the vote the motion was carried.

The Chairman invited members of Forum to vote on the recommendation under section 2.1 of the Final Schools Funding Formula Report (Item 7), on whether 0.25% should be transferred from the Schools’ Block to the High Needs Block. Hilary Latimer proposed that the 0.25% of funding be transferred and this was seconded by John Hewitt. At the vote the motion was carried. 

RESOLVED

1)    That the number of children accessing services rather than the number of planned places be included in the table on page 75 of the report.

2)    It was agreed that the identified saving options under Appendix B should not be pursued.

3)    It was agreed that 0.25% should be transferred from the Schools’ Block to the High Needs Block.

 

Supporting documents: