22.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented a report on the 2021/22 outturn and maintained school balances.
22.2 The Forum was informed that the 2021/22 in-year Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) outturn position was an overspend of £5.058M resulting in a cumulative DSG deficit of £17.042M, representing 3.26% of the 2021/22 gross DSG budget. There was a £0.594M Schools block net underspend consisting of two elements: an underspend of £0.456M on the growth fund used to fund new schools and increases in basic need places; and an in-year underspend of £0.138M on the de-delegated budgets that related to maintained schools only.
22.3 The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that there was also a surplus of £0.200M at the end of last year relating to de-delegated balances that was part of the net £11.984M remaining deficit balance brought forward, bringing the de-delegated surplus element of the DSG up to £0.338M. Although there was an overall net £17.042M DSG deficit being carried forward to 2022/23, this contained surplus commitments relating to the £0.338M maintained schools de-delegated budgets and Early Years DSG balances of £2.824M which consisted of the £1.345M 2021/22 in-year underspend and £1.479M brought forward underspend from 2020/21.
22.4 It was reported that the Early Years block balance of £2.824M included £1.48M relating to 2020/21 and in March 2022 the Schools Forum agreed for £1.4M of those balances to be allocated to providers and specific projects. The in-year position of £1.35M was due to lower spend against the budget for free entitlement for nursery places for three and four year olds and project initiatives both affected by the impact of the pandemic.
22.5 The Forum was informed that for High Needs, DSG funded services were overspent by £17.043M in 2021/22, which included the deficit brought forward of £13.665M. Within the total deficit position, the High Needs block was £20.205M in deficit offset by early years and de-delegated balances. The High Needs budget was £2.869M above the deficit budget that was set, with top-up budgets for colleges, special schools, primary and secondary schools overspending by £3.18M due to increased demand. The Head of Education Strategy and Development emphasised that the budget pressures that Gloucestershire was facing reflected the national picture with significant deficits in the DSG High Needs being held in many local authorities.
22.6 The Forum agreed that the DSG deficit balance at the end of 2021/22 be earmarked, as shown in the report accompanying the agenda, and carried forward to 2022/23.
22.7 The Forum received an update on the maintained school balances at the end of 2021/22. The total maintained school balances at the end of the financial year 31 March 2022 was £23.325M. A total of 174 schools were in surplus, 19 schools (4 less than last year) were in deficit. The total maintained school balances increased by £3.407M (17%) made up of: revenue balance increases of £3.357M (17.8%); capital balance increases of £0.084M (8.4%); and removal of £0.034M of balances relating to seven academy conversions.
22.8 The Forum was informed that the majority of school surpluses were within the recommended range (5-8%), with just a small number of schools with surplus balances slightly higher. The Forum received a summary of the work being undertaken by the Council’s Officer Deficit Group to review deficits and excess surpluses, and its work with schools.
22.9 The Finance Business Partner reported that the outturn position for non-DSG funded services was an overspend position of £17.286M (13.73% of budget). Included within the figures was the additional cost of the impact of COVID-19 on budgets which totalled £9.683M, giving an underlying overspend of £7.603M. Significant overspends included the external placements budget (£15M) driven by rising numbers of children in care (increased by 87 since April 2020); and services for children with disabilities were overspent by £1.644M due to the increased cost of care packages, including Section 76 contracts with Health, and disability service staffing costs. The Forum was informed that the investment approved as part of the Council’s 2022/23 budget would help to address a significant part of the cost pressures identified above although increasing demand for social care services would continue to put pressure on the placements budget.