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LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 17th July, 2017.

 

Present:  Councillor L. Burnett (Chairman); Councillors B.T. Gray, M. Lloyd, M.J. Morgan, Mrs. J. Norman and Ms. S. Perkes.

 

Co-opted Members:  Mr. P. Burke and Mrs. J. Lynch-Wilson.

 

Also present:  Councillor R.A. Penrose (Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture).

 

 

156     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. R.M. Birch, A. Hampton, N.P. Hodges and Mrs. M. Wright.

 

Apologies were also received from Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector).

 

 

157     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th June, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

158     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

159     CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2016-17 (DLS) -

 

The Operational Manager - Accountancy presented the report, the purpose of which was to inform the Scrutiny Committee of the provisional financial position of the Council for the 2016/17 financial year.

 

After the use of £478k from Reserves, the budget achieved a break-even position for 2016/17. 

 

Schools - Breakeven

 

Schools had made a net withdrawal of £624k from school balances in order to outturn at the 2016/17 budget.

 

Strategy, Culture, Community Learning & Resources - Favourable variance of £60k

 

There had been a number of adverse variances during the year totalling £543k.  This included an adverse variance of £241k due to school staff redundancies and early retirements. There had also been adverse variances of £90k due to the reimbursement to Ysgol Y Ddraig and Ysgol Y Deri for one off amalgamation costs, £87k on the Schools Long Term Supply and Maternity schemes.  There was an adverse variance on the Libraries budget of £74k due to the implementation of Community Libraries, which included the legal costs in relation to the Rhws Community Library judicial review.  There were other adverse variances due to urgent repair works required in schools of £34k and £17k on the Adult Community Learning budget due to a reduction in contract income from Cardiff and Vale Colleges for providing basic skills and English as a Second Language training and increased costs in relation to setting up the new Welsh for Adults.

 

There had been a number of favourable variances during the year totalling £921k.  There were favourable variances relating to prudential borrowing repayments amounting to £222k and £213k for Catering due
to an increase in meal uptake.  There was a favourable variance relating to staffing of £174k due to vacant posts and early implementation of 2017/18 Reshaping Services savings. School building rates underspends and refunds amounted to a favourable variance of £107k and there were favourable variances on Education transport of £64k, on ICT income generated from schools of £51k and £45k from capital contributions from other authorities in respect of out of county pupils enrolled at Ysgol Y Deri. There were also favourable variances of £21k on payments to private non-maintained nursery schools, £16k on union backfilling costs and £8k from the reduction in subscriptions.

 

It was advised that there had been a net transfer into reserves of £318k.  £222k had been transferred into the Schools Investment Strategy reserve as a result of the favourable variance on the budget for 21st Century Schools Programme prudential borrowing loan repayments.  £180k had been transferred into the Catering reserve to fund urgent gas works required in schools and catering profits due to be paid to secondary schools. The capital income recouped from other local authorities in respect of pupils at Ysgol Y Deri of £45k had been transferred into the Schools Investment Strategy reserve.  £17k from the Adult Community Learning Reserve had been used to part fund the adverse variance on the Adult Community Learning budget.  £74k had been transferred from the Libraries reserve to fund one off costs and £38k from the Schools Invest to Save reserve had been used towards the costs of redundancies in schools.

 

Strategy and Regulation – Favourable variance of £43k

 

For this budget, there was a favourable variance of £43k due to salary underspends and reductions in office expenses including stationery and furniture.

 

Achievement for All – Adverse variance of £195k

 

There had been a number of adverse variances during the year totalling £1.023m.  There was an adverse variance of £785k on the recoupment income budget.  The recoupment income generated from other authority's pupils enrolled at Ysgol Y Deri had continued to reduce.  Other authorities have now established their own provision and in addition, the demographic increase of pupils with complex needs within the Vale of Glamorgan had resulted in fewer placements being available for other authorities to purchase.  There was an adverse variance on complex pupil placements of £182k.  Occasionally the needs of pupils with higher levels of Additional Learning Needs (ALN) could not be met within Vale of Glamorgan provision and alternative provision is commissioned in other authorities or independent schools.  There was also an adverse variance on Alternative Curriculum and the Pupil Referral Unit of £56k due to an increase in demand.      

 

There had been a number of favourable variances during the year totalling £250k.  £85k relates to staffing due to vacant posts in the Complex Needs, Behaviour and ALN teams and £60k in the Youth Service.  A favourable variance of £58k relating to the Children and Young Peoples Partnership was as a result of grant maximisation and a number of committed projects coming in below profile including training and events.  There was also a £23k favourable variance due to the reduction in the Speech and Language contract with Health and a £24k favourable variance relating to the Pooled Looked After Children budget held within Social Services.

 

There had been a net transfer from reserves of £578k.  £500k had been transferred from the School Placement reserve and £78k from the Adult Community Learning Reserve to contribute towards funding the shortfall on Recoupment Income.  £56k had been used from the Excluded Pupil Reserve to fund the adverse variance on the Alternative Curriculum budget and £4k from the Additional Needs reserve had been used to balance the 2016/17 overspend on the schools pooled ALN budget.   There had been a £60k transfer into the Youth Service reserve from the favourable variance on the Youth Service budget to fund essential engagement work with young people at risk of ending up Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs).

 

School Improvement - Favourable variance of £92k

 

There was a favourable variance of £92k due to the senior management restructure and early implementation of savings scheduled for 2017/18.

 

Capital

 

Council on the 2nd March 2016 (minute no.884) agreed the Authority’s capital budget for 2016/17.

 

Attached at Appendix 2 was a breakdown of the 2016/17 capital programme by scheme for this Committee. The overall outturn for the Directorate of Learning and Skills was a variance of £1.831m against a capital budget of £17.141m. The major variances being outlined below.

 

Llantwit Major Learning Community - Slippage of £355k 

 

Works relating to demolition would be undertaken in 2017/18 and outstanding retention would be due for payment. It had therefore been requested that £355k be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

Barry Comprehensive School Internal and External Refurbishment Works -  Slippage of £508k

 

The variance was due to a reduced scope of works being implemented following discussions with the school and the need to complete some works during school holiday periods. The latest phase of works was completed during the Easter holidays with further works planned for the summer. It had therefore been requested that £508k be carried forward into 2017/18 with any funding that was not required on this scheme to be held within the general Schools Asset Renewal budget and the final use reported to Cabinet.

 

St Brides Expansion – Slippage of £118k

 

The variance was due to a longer than envisaged procurement process which delayed the start of works on site. The scheme was due to complete during the summer holidays to allow the new nursery to open in September 2017. It had therefore been requested that £118k be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

School Loans Scheme – Favourable Variance of £200k

 

An allocation was made available for schools to undertake capital works, however in 2016/17 no requests were received for capital loans and a carry forward of budget was not required.

 

Penarth Learning Community – Slippage of £123k 

 

This variance was due to the final elements of works requiring completion and the outstanding release of retention. It had therefore been requested that £123k be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

With regard to Reserves, the Operational Manager advised that attached to Appendix 3 was a schedule showing Reserves as at 31st March, 2017.  There had been transfers into Reserves for reimbursements from services for works where the initial cost was funded from that specific reserve e.g. computer renewal fund, school rationalisation.  It was noted that there would be considered commitments which would require funding from reserves in the coming years particularly in relation to the 21st Century Schools Investment Programme. 

 

Attached at Appendix 4 was the final status of saving as at the end of 2016/17.  As part of the Capital underspend in 2016/17, Managing Directors Emergency Powers had been used to approve slippage into 2017/18.  This would fund the completion of capital schemes and was detailed in Appendix 5.

 

A Committee Member queried what came under the budget heading of school transport.  The Committee was advised that this would include children with special education needs and this budget was one of the areas that the Council had been able to achieve budget savings.  These savings followed the contract re-tendering exercise.  Further information on this would be sent to Members via email. 

 

In respect of slippage of capital schemes from 2016/17, the Chairman asked whether this was as a result of the need to carry out work during school holidays.  The Operational Manager - Accountancy confirmed that this was the case as wherever possible works would be carried out during school holidays in order to minimise disruption to learning.  This, however, did make the works more difficult to manage.

 

The Chairman queried progress in relation to the adverse variance associated with Ysgol y Deri.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All advised that an outside consultant would be providing a report on this during September. 

 

The Committee queried what percentage of the £74k adverse variance for the Libraries Budget  was as a result of legal costs in relation to the Rhoose Community Library Judicial Review.  The Operational Manager - Accountancy advised that she did not have this information at hand but would email this to Members.

 

The Chairman, in referring to the favourable variance for School Loan Schemes, queried whether school held reserves could be used to fund capital projects.  In reply, the Operational Manager – Accountancy advised that funding for capital programmes would come out of the Capital budget, but a reserve could also be set aside.

 

In clarifying capital schemes that had ‘slipped’, the Operational Manager – Accountancy advised that those schemes shown at the bottom of Appendix 2, would have begun in 2015/16 and as they were not complete, capital had been transferred into 2016/17.

 

It was also agreed that further information regarding the £62k slippage for Oakfield Playing Fields would be circulated to Members via email.

 

There being no further queries, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the financial measures taken and proposed be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Following consideration of the provisional financial position and actions that had been taken.

 

 

160     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY, 2017 (DLS) -

 

The Operational Manager - Accountancy presented the report, the purpose of which was to advise the Scrutiny Committee of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st May, 2017.

 

As it was very early in the financial year the current forecast was for a balanced budget with an anticipated use of reserves.

 

In terms of the Schools Budget, the Committee was advised that this was expected to balance as any under/over spends would be carried forward by schools. 

 

In respect of Achievement For All, it was anticipated that this service would outturn at budget after drawing down £200k from the School Placement Reserve.  The Recruitment Income Budget continued to be under significant pressure and would be monitored carefully over the coming months.

 

For other service areas, at this early stage in the financial year, it was anticipated that these would outturn within budget. 

 

The Operational Manager advised that the Directorate had requested to vire budget between two service headings.  A virement of £520k was required from the Achievement For All Budget to the overall Schools Budget in respect of the transfer of the Out of County Income Budget for enhanced placements for Ysgol y Deri.  The second virement was in relation to the Senior Management Restructure and the allocation of savings. 

 

With regard to 2017/18 saving targets, a list of savings was attached at Appendix 2. 

 

Appendix 3 detailed financial progress on Capital Programmes as at 31st May, 2017 with Members made aware that this included requests for unspent committed expenditure that had slipped from 2016/17 and into 2017/18.  This had been approved by the Managing Director’s Emergency Powers. 

 

A Committee Member stated that as a school governor and following reports around pressures on school balances, he was surprised that a balanced budget was being forecast.  In reply, the Operational Manager – Accountancy stated this would depend on the balances held by all schools, some which would have a surplus that they could use to draw down cost pressures.

 

With regard to pressures in relation to Ysgol y Deri, the Head of Achievement for All stated that a report on this was due in September, but this would not address the issues of income recoupment or demographic pressures.  The purpose of the consultancy report was to consider the future use of Ysgol y Deri, particularly in relation to challenges around the number of children and young people with complex needs. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2017/18 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members and in recognition of information provided at the meeting. 

 

 

161     END OF YEAR (2016-17) PERFORMANCE REPORT: AN ASPIRATIONAL AND CULTURALLY VIBRANT VALE AND TARGET SETTING UPDATE FOR 2017-18 (DLS) -

 

The Head of Achievement for All presented the report the purpose of which was to present the performance results at the end of year, 1st April to 31st March, 2016/17 for the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcome 3, An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale.  The report also presented the proposed targets for improvement for 2017/18 for new local and national performance indicators aligned to the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcomes.

 

The Head of Achievement for All advised that performance for the period 2016-17 was detailed in Appendix A while proposed targets for 2017-18 was shown in Appendix B. 

 

An overall GREEN RAG status had been attributed to Well-being Outcome 3, 'An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale', to reflect the good progress made to date in achieving improved outcomes for residents and our customers.

 

At the end of year, 14 out of 16 Corporate Plan actions attributed to this Well-being Outcome have been completed giving an overall Green performance status for actions. A Red performance status had been attributed to reflect the delays that had been suffered due to ongoing HR issues in restructuring the Youth Service (AC6) However some progress had been made via internal planning meetings as part of the restructure project team and a review of the service as part of the Council’s Reshaping Service programme was due to commence during quarter 1 of 2017/18. It was noted that the service continued to deliver quality youth services and had recently won the bronze quality mark award for youth support services to young people aged 11-25 year and was one of the first local authorities in Wales to achieve this. The development of a new Art Strategy for the Vale (AC15) had also been attributed a Red RAG status. Whilst a consultation exercise had been undertaken with residents this year and the results currently being analysed to inform the development of a new Strategy, this work would now be carried forward into 2017/18 as outlined in the Strategy and Community Learning Service Plan (SL/A027).

 

An overall Amber performance had been attributed to the measures contributing to the Well-being Outcome. Of the 29 measures for which end of year data was reported this year, performance had met or exceeded target for 14 indicators, 10 were within 10% of target and the 5 remaining measures missed target by more than 10%.  The 5 indicators that missed target related to: visitor numbers to libraries (CPM/051); young people leaving year 13 who are not in education, employment or training (CPM/167c); number of Communities First clients entering employment (CPM/070); Number of Communities First clients who report feeling more confident about seeking employment (CPM/069) and number of school days lost due to fixed-term exclusions during the academic year in secondary school (CPM/035).

 

The Corporate Performance Measures Framework for 2017/18 and associated targets as aligned to the Council's Well-being Outcomes were agreed by Cabinet on 3 April 2017. 

 

At the time of target setting for this year, data was only available for quarter 3 and it was therefore not possible to propose targets for a number of new annual performance indicators which were set to establish baseline performance in 2016/17. In addition, a new national performance indicator dataset was agreed at the end of April for 2017-18 and there was a need to set targets for those measures which had previously been collected and reported but now no longer formed part of the Corporate Performance Measures Framework.

 

Appendix B outlined the proposed targets for these measures.  All proposed targets were supported by a rationale, explaining why the target had been set at that level. The rationale should also clearly provide the reason that had driven the decision to set target at that level.  

 

Of the 4 performance measures where a target was required for 2017-18, 3 had been set to improve on the same performance reported last year, 1 had a set target to remain the same when compared to 2016/17.

 

A Committee Member queried progress in relation to Service Plan action SL/A014, regarding the development of a new Arts Strategy for the Vale.  In reply, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources stated that there had been a number of challenges associated with the Strategy such as a staff restructure and change in management.  He advised Members that good progress had recently been made, with the Strategy containing a greater focus on the wider range and less traditional forms of art.  He added that the draft Strategy should be available within the next few days.  In terms of how the progress for this Service Action had been calculated at 80% complete, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that this was a qualitative indication.  This was on the basis that consultation had been carried out and the outcomes of which had been ‘drawn down’.  What remained was putting this information into a working document.  The Committee was advised that there was not a formula used when assessing progress for Service Plan actions, and so, the way that progress was assessed would be different for all actions.

 

The Chairman queried the reduction in the number of people attending Penarth Library and the Chairman enquired about progress in relation to the Community Library Strategy.  In reply, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources stated that for Penarth Library a lot of refurbishing work had been undertaken which had meant that the Children’s Library was not available and so had been closed for a considerable period of time.  The refurbishment work was now complete which would mean that numbers should gradually increase. 

 

With regard to the Community Library Strategy, the Committee was advised that an important element was the new Library Management System which had been introduced.  There were however a number of initial technical issues, that had since been addressed, but there was still a need to undertake staff training.  It was also important to look at how data was recorded across Libraries to ensure that this was carried out in a consistent manner.  The Committee agreed that the way that visitors to libraries was recorded, would be reported back.

 

In response to a query regarding a fall in the number of Communities First clients entering employment, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that the previous performance indicators had contained an element of double counting.  This had now been rectified by Welsh Government with a change in the associated definitions.  This had resulted in more accurate data. 

 

With regard to an increase in the number of young people not in employment, education or training, the Head of Achievement for All advised that this increase had been very slight.  For last year, there had been a 2.9% increase, with the number of young people supported increasing from 24 to 25.  The Head of Achievement for All added that for such a small cohort, one person would have a large impact to the overall percentage and he advised Members that over a three year period, the rate was much more positive. 

 

The Head of Achievement for All also referred to an increase in the rate of exclusions at schools.  This was mainly as a result to an increase in the number of children of a younger age with complex needs, which meant that issues were being encountered at an earlier age.  The Head of Achievement for All stated that the Directorate was trying to develop capacity in schools in order to be better able to meet these challenges.  Further to this, a Committee Member queried the capacity of the specialist unit at High Street Primary School.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All stated that this was up to 10 children and young people.  This would increase to 12, when the unit becomes a resource base.  Another important element was in relation to the work with schools around the creation of a nurturing provision.  This would mean that schools should be better able to help meet the emotional and wellbeing needs of children.  This was a significant challenge for the Directorate as the number of children requiring emotional support was likely to increase. 

 

A Committee Member queried how performance targets were set.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All stated there was a range of national statistics accessible to local authorities which was used in order to identify a benchmark and as a way of comparing performance to other local authority areas.  He also advised that the authority would also look at historic data, but the process of target setting was not an exact science.  He added that it was important to recognise that these targets were aspirational and it was important to have a target in place in order to strive for improvement and to show the minimum expected performance level. 

 

The Head of Achievement for All advised that a key area of work was working with schools in order to reduce long term exclusions, which should only be used as last resort.  He stated that evidence had shown that short term exclusions worked just as well, and he referred to the target around the number pupils excluded for 6 days or less. 

 

The Committee noted that the percentage of school days lost due to fixed term exclusions included all secondary pupils in the Vale.  The Committee also agreed that key all Wales performance data would be provided within future reports.

 

As a School Governor, a Committee Member stated that he could not see any information in relation to individual school attendance.  In reply, Members were advised that information for individual schools was not included as the data related to the Vale as a whole.  Information for individual schools was captured but not reported to Committee.  Head of Achievement for All advised that attendance was a strong area of performance for the Council, with the Vale being ranked second overall in Wales.  Performance however, had remained static over recent years and so increased focus was being placed on primary schools. 

 

With regard to Corporate Plan Actions AC11 and AC12 relating to the promotion of the Welsh Language, a Committee Member stated that the report did not indicate how this would be achieved.  In reply, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that in terms of promotion, 5,000 leaflets had been produced, a copy of which was also available on the Council’s website.  The key Council’s document was the Welsh Educational Strategy Plan (WESP) which included seven key outcomes.  The challenge for the Council was that a draft WESP had been sent to Welsh Government for feedback, but Welsh Government had since decided to re-evaluate how WESP’s should be carried out.  It was therefore not possible to publish the WESP until feedback had been provided.  Once this had been received, a report would be present to the Committee.

 

The Chairman, in referring to recent changes to the curriculum, queried the likely impact this would have on GCSE attainment levels for this year.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All stated that there was a lot of public communication on how this was likely to result in a fall in attainment levels for GCSE English and Maths, but there was currently no evidence to support this.  He added that the extent of any impact would not be known until the results were published, although there was some sense that a fall was likely. 

 

Further to the previous query, a Committee Member asked whether there was any provision in place to support those pupils adversely affected.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All stated that all schools would already have a provision in place.  He also advised that some caution should also be exercised as the Council did not want to over react before analysing the reasons for any drop in pupil attainment.  He further advised that new benchmarking data would need to consider the impact of the changes.

 

The Chairman queried when the benchmarking data would be published.  In reply, the Head of Achievement for All advised that unverified data would be available during September.

 

A Committee Member, in referring to Appendix B and performance indicator CPM/088 (the percentage of customers satisfied with the Heritage Coast) commented that if the only monitoring tool for this indicator was an annual survey, should this be made clear in the description.  The Committee agreed that this would be suggested to Cabinet. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the performance results and progress towards achieving key outcomes in line with the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcome 3 - All Vale of Glamorgan Citizens have opportunities to achieve their full potential, be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposed targets for 2017/18 aligned to the Wellbeing Outcome 3 priorities be endorsed, with it being recommended to Cabinet, that in respect of performance indicator, CPM/088 (the percentage of customers satisfied with the Heritage Coast), the definition of this could be strengthened as the results for this come out of an annual survey.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirements to secure continuous improvements as outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009 and reflecting the requirement of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act that it maximises its contribution to achieving the wellbeing goals for Wales.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Council reports a relevant set of performance indicators against which it can demonstrate achievement of its wellbeing outcomes and consistently sets challenging yet realistic performance improvement targets for those priorities in line with the requirements under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

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