To consider the attached report.
5.1 The Committee noted the update on the County Council’s revenue and capital outturn expenditure for 2022/23, based on forecasts from February 2023 and which had been considered at Cabinet on 29 March 2023.
5.2 The current revenue position was showing a £3.8m overspend, of which the largest area continued to be in Childrens Services. There was currently an underspend within the Technical and Countywide budget of £7.4m, which was largely due to additional income of £3.9m from the increase in interest rates, savings contingency of £1.2m which had not needed to be drawn down and some slippage in capital programmes.
5.3 For the capital budget, there was currently a £19.2m slippage against the £147m budget which had a lot to do with external factors such as delays in planning applications. There was further detail included in the report.
5.4 Concern was raised around the mention of absorbing vacancies to make savings at paragraph 33 of the report. Members were concerned on the impact this could have on existing staff and their workloads. It was advised that it was the choice of the individual manager or service lead, having reviewed the vacancy, whether or not to recruit. Unfortunately, in the current recruitment market, it was often not a deliberate decision not to recruit but rather as a result of being unable to secure suitable candidates. The market had changed dramatically in recent years and the public sector faced huge challenges in competing.
5.5 That being said, senior management were keen to keep pushing for managers to try and recruit to vacancies where appropriate and working to improve the ‘attractiveness’ of a career at GCC. Recruitment officers had carried out a ‘deep dive’ exercise which included a range of workshops with people who had applied to work at the council and people within other partner organisations, to understand what would make GCC an attractive employer. There was no doubt certain professions faced an incredible challenge still, but an overall gradual improvement was starting to be seen.
5.6 A member queried an overspend detailed under Adult Social Care relating to voids in care homes. It was advised this related to a historical contract with a major supplier where the council purchased 60% of its care home beds. Whilst it made every effort to use the beds, they were not always the appropriate solution and therefore the empty beds still had to be paid for.
5.7 It was explained that the concept of ‘bed blocking’ did not actually relate to care home beds, it related to domiciliary care and the delay in securing the appropriate care package for each individual to return to their own home with the right support. It was a very complex area and very few individuals only needed social care support when leaving hospital.
5.8 The Committee noted that maintaining a constant balance of permanent workforce within Children’s Service remained a challenge, progress had been made, but unfortunately the number of agency staff had increased over the past few months.
5.9 Concern was raised again around the underspend in prevention and wellbeing activities within Public Health. Members stressed that every penny spent on prevention could result in a saving further down the line and felt this was a disconnect knowing the level of health inequality in Gloucestershire.
5.10 It was reiterated that public health services around prevention were demand led services and relied completely on residents coming forward and accessing the service. Officers were working to understand why demand had not returned to pre-pandemic levels and different ways they could promote services. Public Health funding was ringfenced and therefore the underspend would not be used elsewhere.
5.11 Recalling comments from Budget Council in February around how difficult the 2024/25 budget could be in light of the current economic circumstances, a member asked whether this Committee could be involved at an earlier point in the budget setting processing to be a sounding board for help on these tough decisions.
ACTION: Steve Mawson