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 SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 10th December, 2012.

 

Present: Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. K. Edmunds, H.C. Hamilton, T.H. Jarvie, F.T. Johnson, R.A. Penrose, J.W. Thomas and E. Williams.

 

Co-opted Member: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church).

 

Non – voting Observers: Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary Sector).

 

 

631     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman) and Mr. D. Treharne (Non-Voting Observer – Welsh Medium Education).

 

 

632     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th November, 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

633     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

634     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2013/14 (CLSO) –

 

The report was submitted for consultation and to inform the Scrutiny Committee of the amended original budget for 2012/13 for services which formed part of the Committee’s remit.

 

Appendix 1 to the report set out the necessary adjustments to the original estimate for 2012/13 which had been required to be made as follows:

 

Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19, Transfers and Recharges - these were accounting adjustments largely outside the control of the Service areas and reflected charges for the use of capital assets, changes to inter-service recharges and functions and pensions adjustments to comply with accounting standards. The overall impact on the Council was reported as nil.

 

The following table compared the amended original budget with the projected outturn for 2012/13.

 

 

2012/13

2012/13

Variance

 

Amended

Original

Projected

 (+)Favourable

Directorate/Service

Budget

Outturn

 (-) Adverse

 

£’000

£’000

     £’000

Learning and Skills

 

 

 

Education and Schools

90,967

90,967

                    0

Libraries

2,567

2,567

                     0

Lifelong Learning 

195

195

                     0

Youth Service

1,137

1,137

                     0

Catering

1,015

1,015

                     0

Grand Total

95,881

95,881

0

 

Education and Schools – Overall, the Education Budget was currently projected to balance as at the end of March 2013, however, this was after transferring £144k from Education Reserves.  Members were informed that any savings identified between now and the end of the year would be available to reduce the use of reserves, or to re-direct into the School Investment Strategy or other reserves. This was due to projected overspends against School Improvement of £29k and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) of £211k offset by a projected underspend against Strategic Planning and Performance of £96k.  ALN was an extremely volatile budget and various options for offsetting any potential overspend were being investigated.

 

In referring to the overspend on School Improvement of £29k this was reported as due to adopting an amended funding approach for the WJEC subscription which had been previously proposed as a saving £42k, and also additional costs for subscriptions and licences paid on behalf of schools £11k. This had been offset by a reduction in the projected cost of the Joint Education Service in year £10k.

 

The Service area Strategic Planning was projecting an underspend of £96k due to the vacant Director post £53k, savings against the pensions budgets £46k, and there was also an underspend against salaries budgets £54k. This was offset by a projected overspend of £15k for Schools Rates and a projected overspend against Maternity costs met on behalf of schools of £80k. The outturn for maternity was difficult to project accurately and was overspent by £195k in 2011/12 and, therefore, it would need to be monitored carefully. There was a projected underspend of £38k against the Schools ICT and Data budget due to delays in recruiting to posts, additional income generated in year and the introduction of an SLA with Cardiff and Vale college to manage the data in relation to Adult enrolments.

 

Additional Learning Needs was projecting an overspend of £211k which was due to an overspend against the budget for children’s placements in independent schools £257k this was partly offset by additional recoupment income of £63k.  ALN was also projecting an overspend of £200k against the one to one LSA budget which had been offset in year by £244k found as a result of de-committing expenditure including specific budgets for secondary behaviour support due to the overspends projected elsewhere in the ALN budget.  There was also an overspend in ALN of £61k due to the refurbishment costs of the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) prior to inspection and lower than projected Age Weighted Pupil Unit contributions from schools towards pupils placed in the PRU.

 

Provision had been made within the budget for the annual cost of financing the School Investment Strategy of £600k and this sum would be transferred to the School Investment Strategy Reserve.

 

In addition to finance, the School’s contributions to the ER/VR scheme Education was projecting to transfer £66k from Education Reserves which  would be repaid by participating schools over 2013/14 and 2014/15.  With regard to the Catering service although anticipated to outturn on target, the service was exposed to external pressures.

 

The Budget Strategy for 2013/14 outlined that in order to establish a baseline Services should prepare initial revenue budgets for the following year based on the cost of providing the current level of service together with any approved policy decisions and including any net savings target.  Directors were also informed that they should find the cost of increments and staff changes from their base budget unless the relevant specific approval had been given for additional funding.  The effect of replacing grants from outside bodies which had discontinued would also not be treated as committed growth and in addition if any project or initiative was to be met either wholly or partly by way of grant, the exit strategy had to be approved.  Services would also be expected to identify and achieve recurrent efficiency and other savings, including those identified in the Medium Term Financial Plan (but not restricted to).  It was envisaged that the costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective Directorates. 

 

The efficiency savings targets were reported as follows:

 

Efficiency Savings Targets

2013/14

2014/15

TOTAL

 

£000

     £000

     £000

Learning and Skills (excl. schools)

244

257

501

      

A detailed list of the savings targets for the Directorate shown above were attached at Appendix 3 to the report.

 

Committee was advised that following the Council elections in May 2012 a budget review process had also been established, the results of which would inform the 2013/14 budget process.  The purpose of the review was to ensure

 

·         A sustainable budget was achieved within predicted funding levels

·         The budget was aligned to the Council’s priorities as set out in the Corporate Plan

·         Best value for money was being obtained, i.e. identifying efficiency savings, opportunities for income generation and better use of external grants.

 

The outcome of the review would be to put in place a four year financial strategy for the period to March 2017.  The review was supported by cost centre analyses which provided details of each service area including

 

·         Comparisons of the 2010/11 outturn, 2011/12 budget and actual outturn, and 2012/13 current year budget.

·         Separation of the largely controllable (e.g. salaries and wages) and uncontrollable (e.g. recharges from other departments) elements of income and expenditure.

·         Identification of the costs centres within Service Areas 

 

A copy of the Cost Centre Analysis for this Directorate was attached at Appendix 5 to the report.

 

Each cost centre had been awarded a rating that measured its relative risk (based on the Council’s risk management strategy) and corporate priority. This was attached at Appendix 6 to the report.

 

The Council’s Budget Working Group was responsible for completing the Budget Review it being noted that an update on the progress of the Budget Review would be reported to the Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee in January 2013. 

 

In considering the report Committee was advised that with regard to savings, officers would be looking at statutory and non-statutory provision.  Although acknowledging that education was essential, Members noted that savings would have to be achieved in some areas view of the budget settlement.  Reference was made to Paragraph 11 and the various options for offsetting the ALN budget, the Head of Service advised that some options would be to  pool resources for out of county placements and to reconsider the way in which learning support assistants were allocated to schools.  Consideration would also be given to reviewing fees and charges as usual on a regular basis.  With the establishment of the Penarth Learning Community the Council would also be considering bringing its out of county placements back in house, which would reduce the expenditure, but other Councils may do the same and thus some income could be lost. Members of the School Places Working Group advised that they would be presenting a report to the Scrutiny Committee in the New Year and urged Members to consider the budget implications when responding to any recommendations the Group may present. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the amended budget as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To incorporate the changes to the budget.

 

 

635     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2013/14 (CLSO) –

 

The Committee was provided with an update on the progress of the Capital Programme for 2012/13 and Members were requested to consider the initial capital proposals for 2013/14 and refer any comments to the lead Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources). 

 

Capital bids had been invited for return by 28th September 2012 and an extremely high number had been received.  These were evaluated by the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) with Departments being requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission with a maximum of 20 bids from each Department to be forwarded to the CAMG for evaluation.  Appendix C to the report detailed bids that had not been evaluated by the CAMG.  The method of prioritisation used by the CAMG was detailed as follows:

 

A

 

Health and Safety Legislation

B

 

Other Legislation / Statutory requirement

Ci

 

Economic Sense

Cii

 

Corporate Plan

Ciii

 

Sufficiency

D

 

Condition / Suitability

E

 

Welsh Government objectives

F

 

Low Priority

 

The Budget Working Group (BWG) had prioritised the bids based upon the recommendations of the CAMG and these were shown at Appendix B to the report.  Included in Appendix B was the sum of £350k for the second phase of the Phase 2 expansion of Ysgol Dewi Sant, the Llantwit Major Welsh Medium School development.  This was subject to a grant bid to the Welsh Government (WG) and a Business Justification Case which had recently been submitted to WG to support a 50% grant bid for the £700k scheme.  In addition to the capital bids included in Appendix B, Appendix C listed the capital bids that had been received but not successful.  The Directorate had also been asked to submit capital bids for future years that may have not been submitted as part of the bidding round in order to ensure that the full capital commitments of the Authority were known. 

 

Having considered the contents of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 Capital Programme be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2012/13 Capital Programme.

 

 

636     WELSH PUBLIC LIBRARY STANDARDS ASSESSMENT 2011-12 (CLSO) –

 

The Annual Return 2011-12 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and had been completed using a template provided by the Welsh Government (WG) required sufficient information to enable the assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on that performance.  The Annual Return was submitted to the WG in July of each year.  It was of note that the Authority’s performance was comparable with other Authorities in Wales having achieved six of the nine Standards.  The report highlighted that the service had partly achieved a further two Standards but had failed to achieve one Standard. 

 

Of note was the impact of the withdrawal of the mobile library service as a result of the budgetary savings required for 2011-12 and 2012-13 which was reflected in reduced performance in a number of Standards and Performance Indicators in 2011-12.  Specifically it had resulted in a reduction in the number of visits and issues as well as a reduction in the aggregate opening hours.  However, the Assessment noted that the Service remained accessible to the vast majority of residents with the Standard for accessibility being still achieved.  The aggregate opening hours also met the stipulated requirements with the Assessors noting that the introduction of the Home Borrower Service had alleviated the impact of the loss of the mobile library service for those unable to use static libraries.  Recognition had also been given in the Assessment to the maintenance of expenditure levels on library books and other resources.  This had resulted in good levels of performance in the Standards relating to library stock - WPLS5 - Annual Acquisition of books, WPLS6 - Stock Replenishment rates and WPLS7 - Speed of supply of requested items to library users.

 

However, reference was made to the fact that the Authority still failed to achieve WPLS9 (floor area) and was unlikely to do so in the future as significant capital investment would be required to provide the additional floor areas in libraries in order to meet the Standard.  During discussion comments were made with regard to Penarth and Llantwit Major libraries, in that they  would both benefit greatly from more space and that book stock at Penarth library was low.  The Principal Librarian (Mr. C. Edwards) who was present at the meeting, pointed out that overall the Council performed well in terms of stock but acknowledged that lack of space in certain libraries resulted in high stock turnover and more limited choice for customers.  Further space would allow the bookstock to be increased by accommodating more shelving and display space with the service area continuing to seek opportunities to address these issues. However, he also advised that the Library Service provided a very good facility within the Vale although the size of the buildings was an issue but due, to budget constraints, extensions to properties was unlikely. 

 

In referring to the resource implications, it was noted that performance in some areas was directly related to the level of investment in the Service.  The Assessment had concluded that “There have been significant reductions in resources and withdrawal of services already and the impact of those decisions was already apparent.  Any further reductions of a similar kind would be likely to have a more profound impact on the nature and the performance of the service”.

 

With regard to mobile provision Members requested that should any further discussion take place on the subject, a report should be presented to the Committee for consideration.  The Head of Service advised that consideration was being given to working with Town and Community Councils but that further reports would be brought forward as appropriate.

 

Members on the Schools Surplus Project Group advised that following visits to a number of schools, concerns had been raised in relation to IT bandwidth service and whether the Library Service could assist.  Mr. Edwards however, advised that speed was a problem in general and the Library service experienced the same problem in some areas.

 

In response to a query from the Local Member for Penarth as to whether the caretaker’s house could be brought into the library, Mr. Edwards advised that it was an idea that could be developed if grant funding was available. Committee also noted that Penarth was an extremely busy and popular library. 

 

Having considered the report in was 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Annual Return 2011-12 submitted to the Welsh Government be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Library Standards Framework be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Report for 2011-12.

 

(2)       To keep Members informed of performance and progress.

 

(3)       To advise Cabinet.

 

 

637     SCHOOL PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE LEVEL 2 INCLUSIVE, END OF KEY STAGE 4 (PROVISIONAL DATA ONLY) (CLSO) –

 

The purpose of the report was to update Members on school performance in 2012.  Appendix 1 to the report provided the results for the Level 2 inclusive for each Local Authority in Wales it being noted that the Vale’s results were above the Welsh average and were ranked fifth.  The information also showed a 1.1% increase in the Level 2 inclusive over the last three years for the Vale of Glamorgan.  Appendix 2 provided the results for individual schools in the Vale and Appendix 3 provided detailed comparative information up to 2011 only. 

 

Members were advised that a report showing comparisons with other Local Authorities would be presented to the Committee when the data was finalised in the New Year. 

 

The Head of Service stated that whilst the results remained relatively good in many respects and that some schools were making accelerated progress, the performance trend and the performance of some schools required rapid improvement.  The Directorate had therefore implemented an Authority wide support and development programme involving Headteachers in all Primary and Secondary schools and Heads of Departments and Subject Leaders to specifically address concerns as detailed at Appendix 4 to the report.  Individual schools had also been targeted for support.  Schools’ System Leaders within the Joint Education Service (JES) would monitor progress towards meeting performance targets on a termly basis and also deliver the Authority’s statutory school improvement functions to all schools on behalf of the Council. 

 

Committee was also informed by the Head of Service that the report contained provisional data which highlighted that the Vale was above the Welsh average and ranked fifth. Since writing the report the department had recently received the final data which showed that the Vale's results for Level 2 inclusive were 55.3% with the Vale remaining in fifth position.  The Head of Service in referring to paragraph 14 of the report stated that the paragraph should read that there was a decrease of 1.1% over years 2010/11 -11/12 with the final year showing a decrease of 0.7%.   The final data would now be considered with the view to bringing a report to the Scrutiny Committee in the New Year.  It was noted that Maths was seen to be a main factor to underachievement and that the Council recognised where improvements needed to be made. 

 

Concerns were raised and discussion ensued regarding the possible reasons for deterioration in pupil’s writing skills.  Members were informed that in today’s society the use of modern technology and the text facility did not wholly assist in helping pupils in creative writing.  However, technology was also seen as a very good favourable system which could, if used correctly, assist in creative writing.  Of particular note however, was that schools in the Vale performed very well at Key Stage 2 in English. Members thanked the Head of Service for the detail contained within the report and the improvement procedures that had been put in place.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure the Cabinet is aware of the performance of schools and the ongoing programme for improvement.

 

 

638     SIX-MONTHLY REPORT IN RESPECT OF SAFEGUARDING PRACTICE IN SCHOOLS AND OTHER SERVICES WITHIN THE LEARNING AND SKILLS DIRECTORATE (CLSO) –

 

The Head of Service advised that the purpose of the report was to assure the Committee that the Directorate was meeting its responsibilities for safeguarding vulnerable people.  Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults was a corporate responsibility of the entire Local Authority.  In August 2011 CSSIW and Estyn had published their joint investigation into the handling of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council. That report had raised a number of serious issues concerning the proper checking of staff working with children and the handling of allegations of professional abuse.  The report and the recommendations made explicit the expectations of the Inspectorate in a number of areas which was detailed at paragraph 5 of the report.  Members were informed that the Learning and Skills Directorate was represented on the Corporate Safeguarding Group by the Head of School Achievement and, in her absence, by the Deputy Head of Inclusion Services.  A Safeguarding Action Plan had been produced by the Directorate and was attached at Appendix 2 to the report. This had had been discussed with the Corporate Safeguarding Group, it captured the key areas of work that were being undertaken and demonstrated that considerable progress had been made in delivering change. A number of documents had been reviewed including physical intervention (detailed at Appendix 3), Timeout Policy (detailed at Appendix 4), Safeguarding Policy (Appendix 5) and the Anti-Bullying Policy (Appendix 6). However, it was noted that the Behaviour and Discipline and Inclusion Policies were in the process of being reviewed. 

 

Every Directorate had appointed a Lead Officer for Safeguarding, who would become members of the Steering Group and Councillor Chris Elmore had been appointed as Cabinet Member for Safeguarding.  Governors with responsibilities for safeguarding had also been identified for all schools and a programme of training was in place.  A new programme of training for a team from the Directorate and school based staff would be implemented in January 2013. This central team would then undertake a “Training the Trainers” course to cascade training to identified schools based on a “needs led” approach. 

 

Members queried when the Member training would commence and were advised that it was likely to start early in the New Year.  Two dates for training had already been agreed for Governors in the Spring Term it being noted that training for named Governors would be compulsory.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the work undertaken to ensure best practice be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Chief Learning and Skills Officer provide update reports to the Scrutiny Committee, on a six monthly basis, in respect of safeguarding practices in schools and other services within the Directorate.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure that the Council has in place effective arrangements for overseeing this key area of work.

 

 

639     CORPORATE PLAN (REF) –

 

The Corporate Plan had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee by Cabinet on 19th November 2012 for comments.  The Corporate Plan set out how the Council would deliver the aims of the Community Strategy and provided a focus for the Council’s approach to corporate governance and community leadership.  A review of the Corporate Plan had begun in August and was being undertaken in parallel with the Budget Review.  The process would ensure that the Corporate Plan accurately conveyed the Council’s priorities and that budget proposals were delivered in line with an up to date Corporate Plan. 

 

In order to develop the priorities and objectives in the draft Plan, workshops had been held with Cabinet Members and officers and following those workshops, the Corporate Management team had produced a draft Plan for consultation.  The document was aligned to the Community Strategy 2011-21, Improvement Objectives, the Outcome Agreement and reflected the results of the Public Opinion Survey 2011/12.  It also provided a foundation for the annual Services Plans and the annual Improvement Objectives.

 

It was noted that the Council would be consulting with residents on both the draft Corporate Plan and the Budget Review process as both of these would focus on similar issues and, as such, a combined consultation was being planned.

 

Having considered the Draft Plan which had been circulated to Members prior to the meeting, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the draft Plan, timetable and proposals for consultation be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure the Council has an effective and up to date Corporate Plan which reflected the work being undertaken across the Council to improve the quality of life in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

 

640     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE AND ACTION MONITORING REPORTS – INCLUSION SERVICE (DLS) –

 

The reports were presented for Members consideration and comments.

 

It was noted that some of the PIs would need to be amended as a result of the recent Corporate restructure.  In response to a query in relation to progress on NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) Members were advised by the Head of Service that a corporate NEETs group had been established and a revised strategy was being developed. The funding for NEETs was spread across a number of services and was made up with grant funding.  Members agreed that a strategy to target NEETs was imperative and requested that a further report be brought to the Committee on progress in due course.  With regard to a question as to how many apprentices the Council had appointed it was agreed that the information be e-mailed to Members. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to its Scrutiny function.

 

 

641     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE AND ACTION MONITORING REPORTS – SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT (DLS) –

 

During discussion reference was made to the following PIs:

 

L924Q – Percentage of employees that leave the employment of School Improvement during the year.

The target had not been set but it was noted that the transfer referred to 15 staff in the Vale of Glamorgan transferring to the Joint Education Service in March. 

L274Q – Number of achievements in Lifelong Learning opportunities.

It was noted that the figure no longer included the Lifelong Learning Employment Training Service as this had transferred to the Directorate of Development Services.  The recording of achievement had also been inaccurate as the total figure included getting people in to work which, in reality, should have been recorded as Lifelong Learning Opportunities.  It was noted that the target would need to be reviewed in the following year.

 

In considering the report, a local Member referred to the recent input by system leaders at his local school in respect of performance management and advised that this had been an extremely excellent service. Members and officers were pleased to note the good comments.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance and action monitoring report for the School Improvement Service be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to its Scrutiny function

 

 

642     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE AND ACTION MONITORING REPORTS – STRATEGIC PLANNING (DLS) –

 

For PI L721Q – the number of hits on library website – it was noted that the service had not performed as well as the previous year, but as advised by the Head of Service the previous year had been exceptional performance it was not envisaged to amend the target. With regard to LCL001Q – the number of visits to public libraries during the year per 1,000 population – it was anticipated that this would increase in the third quarter in line with promotional activities that were being undertaken. The target would need to be reviewed at year end.  Having considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Strategic Planning performance and action monitoring reports be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to its Scrutiny function.

 

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