4.1 Sue Hall, Finance Business Partner, introduced the report, which outlined the budget strategy and draft details for 2018/19, and the medium term financial strategy covering the period 2018/19 to 2020/21. The Forum noted that full details of the draft budget for 2018/19, and the Medium Term Financial Strategy for the period covering 2018/19 to 2020/21, were presented to Cabinet on 13 December 2017.
4.2 The Forum received a presentation which outlined the proposed changes to the Children and Families budget, plus 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).
4.3 The Finance Business Partner explained that it was proposed that Children and Families achieve cost reductions of £0.89M and receive cost increases of £11.36M, a net increase in budget of £10.47M. She explained that the investment being proposed was in recognition of the pressures on the Vulnerable Children and Young People element of the budget during 2017/18, which was forecast an overspend of £9.38M before the application of reserves.
4.4 During the presentation particular reference was made to:
4.4.1 A sum of £7.69M of additional investment to meet the cost and demand pressures related to External Placements Budgets, ensuring the most appropriate placements for the increasing numbers of children in care. Members of the Forum acknowledged however that the amount allowed in the investment for increases in children in care and the provision of external placements allowed little flexibility for numbers to increase further and the cost of this to be covered. It was explained that investment and changes in practice elsewhere within social care e.g. in-house fostering capacity, IRIS , should assist in mitigating the risks.
4.4.2 Additional investment for Adoption, Special Guardianship and Fostering Allowances and additional fostering staff.
4.4.3 Additional investment to provide support to care leavers until the age of 25, following the implementation of new legislation.
4.4.4 Addition investment for Child Protection chairs to meet the increased demand.
4.4.5 The activities being undertaken to improve performance resulting from the Ofsted judgement. A member commented that they would have expected to have seen funding made available to pick up the continuing costs of the impact of the Ofsted judgement even if this was just one-off costs in 2018/19.
4.5 A member of the Forum raised the question of whether additional funding was being made available to fund what was likely to be a 2% pay award in addition to the 1.5% already allowed for. It was confirmed that funding increases above a 1.5% pay award would be considered as part of the revised budget to Cabinet in January.
4..6 The Forum acknowledged that the Council was setting a budget within a challenging funding environment and was overall supportive of the budget proposal.
4.7 The Forum was informed that the Council’s budget consultation survey would run until 17 January 2018. Final approval of the budget would be considered at the Cabinet meeting on 31 January 2018 and at the Full Council meeting on 14 February 2018.