Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
The minutes of the meeting on 9 January 2020 were agreed as a correct record.
Declaration of interests
No additional declarations were made.
Forthcoming Executive Decision List
Currently on the work plan
Consider Information Management item for future meeting
Consider presentation on ‘Annual Overview of Need and Council Performance in Gloucestershire’ for September meeting
4.1 Members noted the Forthcoming Executive Decision List and the Council Strategy when considering items for the work plan. Members had previously indicated that they wished to have an item on Information Management at a future meeting.The Committee regularly received a presentation on Annual Overview of Need and Council Performance in Gloucestershire and this was also on the work plan for September.
4.2 One member asked whether the Council was at a point where decision-making had returned to normal practice. It was explained that very few decisions were taken under delegated powers over the course of the pandemic. The monitoring officer stated that where urgent decisions were required then these delegated powers would be used. This would go through the normal channels involving the relevant scrutiny chair.
4.4 One member suggested that there needed to be an opportunity to consider the impact of financial challenges due to the Covid-19. It was explained that on the agenda was a supplementary report, which provided the latest financial information and would allow for that discussion.
4.5 Members questioned whether Corporate Scrutiny would be notified of the use of local outbreak powers. The Chief Executive would take the decision alongside the Director of Public Health following conditions that would need to be met and this included the level of urgency. A template was being worked on to show the assessment of conditions and this process would be made public. Members recognised that the number of Covid-19 cases in Gloucestershire was currently extremely low.
5.1 Rob Ayliffe introduced the year-end performance report 2019/20 with members also noting the quarter 4 scorecards that had been provided in the pack.The Committee had received presentation slides on the impact of Covid-19 on headline performance for the first quarter 2020/21.
5.2 Members understood that
with regards to Children’s Social Care referrals there had
been 40% fewer in the middle of April, but by 7 June, the level was
now closer to the previous year’s average. It was clarified
that this included new referrals and re-referrals. It would be
reasonable to assume that there would be a backlog which would be
shown in the data later in the year and was consistent with the
position across the country. Members were informed that nearly 100%
of children in need have had their needs reviewed to ensure they
were being met. By June 2020 28% of vulnerable children were
attending school on a regular basis. One member asked for the exact
numbers for those vulnerable children attending school, expressing
concern about those who might not be receiving education. This
could be provided, but it was clarified that this did not include
those children that were in contact with schools and supported in
other ways. This would be picked up by Children and Families
5.3 Adult Social care performance data showed that contacts and referrals had dropped during lockdown but contacts had returned to normal level during June. The numbers of hospital discharges supported were shown, showing the same rise and fall in demand as the other performance indicators. In response to a question, it was suggested that the increase was due to the way people responded to lockdown with people thinking longer term about the needs of loved ones as lockdown went on longer.
5.4 It was confirmed that preparations were underway for the winter flu season, led through the Integrated Care System.
5.5 The Committee discussed the likely surge in demand in children’s services in September when many children would return to school. This was in conjunction with national shortages in children’s social workers which made providing appropriate support challenging. It was suggested that flexibility was important to make the best use of resources and ensure support was in place. Gloucestershire’s workforce was more stable than in previous years so was in a better position then previously. One member expressed concern that there was an apparent ‘waiting period’ until September before we could take action to support young people based on information from schools. Members were assured that throughout the period action was being taken to make contact with those children that the Council were aware of.
5.6 There had an increase in numbers of referrals relating to domestic abuse in the second half of lockdown but this was returning to more normal levels. One member expressed surprise that the levels appeared to be ‘flattening out’.
5.7 Members were presented with figures around the shielding support for people who were extremely vulnerable ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 Paul Blacker introduced the finance update which included the County Council’s Revenue & Capital outturn expenditure for 2019/20. There was a £326,000 under spend (0.08% of the total budget). The biggest issue continued to be in Children and Families, to mitigate this there was an ongoing review of expenditure in Children’s Services. There had been a £8.927 million under spend in Technical and Countywide budgets.
6.2 The Committee also received the latest monitoring report, which had been received at the Cabinet meeting on 22 July 2020, which provided the latest year-end forecasts. Overall forecast was a £15.7m overspend. This included Covid-19 related spend and non-Covid -19 expenditure.
6.3 Non Covid-19 spend equated to £4.1m of the overspend and this expenditure was once again in relation to issues within children and families. This was driven by external placements costs and staffing costs.
6.4 The Covid-19 related overspend equates to £11.6m after receipt of a grant of just over £27m. The government had since announced another tranche of funding of £3.7m and a loss of income grant - the value of the lost income grant will not be known until the end of the financial year but was forecasted at around £3.5m. This would leave a £4.5m overspend. There is no currently no confirmation that more funding will be available in the future.
6.5 In response to a question it was clarified that the General reserves was at £18.5m.
6.6 With regards to business rates and council tax collection rates , members asked what was expected in the current year. There was a pooling arrangement in place and a £2m surplus to the collection fund was built into the current year budget. The impact of non-collection would not have an effect until the next financial year. Realistically there would not be a surplus going forward.
6.7 Members discussed in detail concern around the financial challenges within Children and Families. Members’ recognised year on year overspends in this area driven by the complexity of cases and unit costs as well as increased numbers. The Cabinet Member for Finance provided some assurances around the work-taking place in this area, referring to Trevone House as part of the solution. This was an issue that wasn’t unique to Gloucestershire. Some members called for a thorough review of the service area, stating that the impact on the wider council budget was significant. Members asked that the concerns be referred to the Children and Families Scrutiny Committee and that Corporate Scrutiny have a report providing more information and the overall impact of the Council’s finances with an opportunity to speak to the Director and Cabinet Member.
ACTION Children and Families Scrutiny Committee
6.8 One member expressed his concern about potential long term spending pressures associated with adult social care related to Covid-19. He suggested that this, in combination with the issues in Children and Families, was worrying.
7.1 The Committee noted the report that had been scheduled to be received at the March 2020 committee meeting which included a proposal for the establishment of Equality and Diversity Member Champions to meet periodically with the Leader of Council. The report provided some background on how the Council had due regard according to the requirements of the Equality Act when making decisions.
7.2 The role of Member Champions would be:
· A visible champion within the Council for equality and diversity issues
· Review and provide oversight of equality and diversity policies
· To feed back to their groups to ensure all Members are informed.
· A point of contact within political groups for equality and diversity issues that arise through members’ casework and day-to-day activities.
7.3 Cllr Kate Haigh had been put forward as the labour group Member Champion.
7.4 It was clarified that the due regard approach was being reviewed and a new template was being developed.
7.5 The Committee were happy to support the proposal.