5.1 Suzanne Hall, Finance Business Partner, introduced the report which informed members of the budget strategy and draft details for 2019/20 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy covering the period 2019/20 to 2021/22. The Forum noted that full details of the draft budget for 2019/20, and the Medium Term Financial Strategy for the period covering 2019/20 to 2021/22, were presented to Cabinet on 19 December 2018.
5.2 The Forum also received a presentation on the proposed changes to the Children and Families budget, plus an outline of the cost pressures and the risk and challenges. (For information – A copy of the slides has been uploaded to the Council’s website and is included in the signed minute book.)
5.3 The Forum noted that it was proposed that Children and Families achieve cost reductions of £2.25M and receive cost increases of £13.15M, a net increase in budget of £10.9M. The investment being proposed was in recognition of the pressures on the Children and Families budget during 2018/19, which was forecast an overspend of £9.83M before the offset of the business rates retention income.
5.4 During the presentation particular reference was made to:
Ø The investment being proposed in recognition of the pressures on the Vulnerable Children and Young People element of the budget during 2018/19 In particular, the sum of £6.2M of additional investment for the External Placement Budget to meet the cost and demand pressures for ensuring the most appropriate placements for the increasing numbers of children in care.
Ø The additional investment of £3.514M for additional social work capacity and initiatives to support recruitment.
Ø The £1.7M of saving against placements through improved commissioning and review of costs.
Ø The investment being proposed in recognition of the pressures on the other Children’s Services element of the budget, in particular the sum of £0.069M for staff to support the increase in Education, Health, and Care Plan.
Ø The £0.250M saving in relation to Education Services, through aligning the intervention and support capacity with demand/changing number of local authority maintained schools and academies.
5.5 The Forum was informed that the Government had recently (December 2018) announced an additional £4.322M of ringfenced grant funding for Social Care, to be allocated equally between Adult Care and Vulnerable Children. The announcement was made after the proposed budget had been formulated and therefore the draft budget position presented to the Forum did not include the additional funding.
5.6 In response to a question on the investment of £3.514M for additional social work capacity and initiatives to support recruitment, the Finance Business Partner explained that there was strong competition between neighbouring authorities to attract and recruit newly qualified social workers.
5.7 Gloucesershire County Council’s recruitment drive had focused on promoting its comprehensive training, support and supervision package. The Forum welcomed the news that nearly all of the Team Manager post vacancies had now been recruited to.
5.8 The Forum recognised that the Council was setting a budget within a challenging funding environment, and members noted the budget proposals.
5.9 The Forum noted that the Council’s budget consultation survey would close on 21 January 2019. Final approval of the budget would be considered at the Cabinet meeting on 30 January 2019 and at the Full Council meeting on 13 February 2018.