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 SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th December, 2013.

 

Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors: Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. K. Edmunds, H.C. Hamilton, F.T. Johnson, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.

 

Co-opted Members:  Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church); Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor - Primary Sector).

 

Non-Voting Observer: Ms. T. Young (Secondary).

 

Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore, Dr. I.J. Johnson, N. Moore and S.T. Wiliam.

 

           

661     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman) and Councillor T.H. Jarvie.

 

 

662     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 11th November, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

663     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

The following declarations were received :-

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman) – Agenda Item No. 11 – he was a school governor at Ysgol Gwaun y Nant. 

 

Mr. L. Kellaway – Agenda Item No. 10 – a family member worked at the library; and

 

Ms. T. Young – Agenda Item Nos. 6 and 8 – she was a teacher at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School.

 

 

664     PRESENTATION – CENTRAL SOUTH CONSTORTIUM – JOINT EDUCATION SERVICE –

 

Representatives from the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service were in attendance and advised the Committee on the role of school improvement within the Consortium. 

 

Tabled at the meeting was a copy of the presentation for Members’ information.  Mr. Robert Hopkins, Head of Service for School Improvement, commenced by advising that the statement of ambition and intent was to ensure the best for all our learners, strong partnerships and that every child in every school had the potential to do as well in school as any other in Wales and beyond.  There were three key priorities: excellence in teaching, excellence in leadership and excellence in challenge and support. 

 

With regard to the Vale of Glamorgan the Vale inspection outcomes were reported as follows:

  • Around a third of the schools inspected overall had required follow up
  • Fewer schools in the Vale required follow up than regionally or nationally but the figures were still too high
  • Proportionally more secondary schools than primary schools and special schools required follow up
  • There has been some decrease in the proportion of primary schools requiring follow up over time but an increase in secondary schools.

All schools had been categorised in one of four categories of effectiveness i.e. A to D, the reasons for the category indicated what needed to be the focus for improvement with improving standards being at the heart of the process. 

 

Mr. Hopkins introduced Mr. Paul Wolstenholme, who was one of five senior system leaders across the Consortium whose role was to focus on the relationship between the Vale and to work with senior officers within the Authority, for example the Head of Service for School Improvement.  System leaders were also attached to each school.  Members were advised standards were higher in many Vale schools when compared with others in the rest of the region.  However, there were variations and overall expectations in pupils’ achievements were not as high as they should be.  The categorisation system had identified that there had been some improvement in primary schools but not in the secondary schools.   Mr. Hopkins stated that half of the primary schools were in category A, a fifth in category C, none in category D, whereas for the secondary sector fewer schools were in categories A and B and two thirds were in categories C and D.

 

One of the aims of the Consortium was to ensure that best practice throughout the Consortium was established to build capacity across all schools and one of the benefits of working regionally was that it provided greater scale, access to school-to-school support and programmes with strong track records of success.  In advising how the Consortium worked with all local authorities it was noted that local authorities commissioned the part of the school improvement service involving challenge and support, a system leader provided guidance to each school, the senior system leader oversees and quality assures the work of the system leaders and there was an established framework that guided the challenge, support, monitoring and intervention work of system leaders.  An annual report on schools’ progress would be provided by the Consortium.  Every school receives an annual performance review report.

 

In referring to the support that was currently in place for both under performing and high performing schools, Mr. Hopkins referred to the outstanding teacher programme, the improving teacher programme and achievement for all.  There were also national initiatives that were currently being rolled out in partnership with the CSC, which included the literacy and numeracy framework.  The Consortium also provided training to support the implementation of national programmes.  Bespoke support for individual schools was provided in response to the commission from the Vale.  The Education London model focused on improving outcomes at Level 2 including English and Maths, and was currently working with two schools in the Vale i.e. Llantwit Major and St. Cyres.  Support was provided by specialists with experience of working with the London Challenge.  The support commissioned by schools from Links was available for all schools to buy in or could be provided following the identification of need by the system leader, the focus being on building capacity not on one off events or courses.  There were also long term programmes of support in literacy, numeracy, reducing low achievement, leadership, teaching, Welsh and emerging technologies.  The schools contact Links, the service facilities support and commission other expertise or supports schools to work with one another. 

 

At this point Mr. Hopkins introduced Jayne Edwards, the Head of Service for Links to the Committee, who proceeded to advise the Committee in relation to the graph which identified the percentage of Vale schools that were using Links to provide support between April 2013 and to date.  Reference was also made to the issue of improving attendance with it being noted that guidance had been provided to schools, the provision of audit tools to assist schools in identifying strengths and aspects that needed to be improved, the evaluation of attendance in an annual report on performance and making the link between attendance and achievement.  Mr. Hopkins advised that throughout the process there would be half termly progress reporting which would be shared with senior officers within the local authority.

 

In response to concerns from Members regarding how progress can be maintained, it was noted that the data collection of information was now more timely and was being reported earlier.  There was now a collation of the schools expected outcomes which was based on pupils’ current performance that allowed the system leaders to see what the school was doing in respect of the current position.  All schools would have to have in place a system of monitoring for each term, some schools were also entering pupils earlier than normal for exams which had assisted in the data collection.  As a result of all these measures snap shots were being taken at regular intervals throughout the year while reasonable progress was being made.

 

Further work was also to be undertaken in relation to the reliability of teacher assessments to try and strengthen and assist the process.  An important element here was how teachers responded to needs when they were identified.  Catch up programmes had also been established. 

 

With regard to a query as to 'what if a school did not wish to engage in the process', the Head of Service for the JES advised that this would be an issue that would be taken back to the relevant local authority for it to consider statutory intervention if necessary.  To date that has not been an issue.  

 

Reference was also made to the role of governors in the process and the need for that role to hold the school to account.  It was accepted that some governors may not like to ask probing questions and that more training should be provided to governors to assist them. The Chairman stated that he hoped that any issues in connection with the role of Governors would be referred to the Council for consideration.  Mr. Hopkins advised that it was in the interest of the JES to be open and transparent with all the local authorities.

 

In referring to the spreadsheet that had been tabled at the meeting  Members requested that more detailed information in relation to the projects be provided in due course and e-mailed to all Members of the Committee together with Llantwit Major and its support programmes being included in the list.

 

The Chairman queried the capacity of the Links service to provide extra support if required by schools with the Head of Service for Links advising that funding would be carefully monitored to ensure that the funds were being directed into the right areas.  It was important that the service developed as schools improved, with schools being stretched and monitored for improvement.  The Consortium needed to be in a position to have outstanding schools in order that good practice could be cascaded throughout the region. 

 

In response to a question regarding why the Consortium was only considering benchmarking with Wales and whether England benchmarking or even beyond the UK should take place, the Head of Service for the JES concurred that benchmarking with the rest of the UK was relevant and that schools should be ambitious.   The Senior System Leader also in response stated that he had recently benchmarked against another local authority namely Birmingham and good practice would be shared. 

 

The level of attendance at schools was also raised with it being noted that the Scrutiny Committee had agreed to consider the issue at future meeting, This was welcomed by the Consortium representatives who although aware that the matter  was the responsibility of the governing bodies, suggested that direction and  leadership from the Council itself would assist. 

 

Members queried how the JES was going to be held to account, aware that the joint scrutiny arrangements that were intended had not reached fruition. In response Mr. Hopkins advised that a number of regulators would inspect the service however, he would be more than happy to meet with the Committee on a regular basis to apprise on progress.

 

Following the discussion the Chairman thanked the representatives from the JES for their attendance and presentation and stated that with Committee approval a programme would be developed to invite representatives from the JES to future meetings of the Committee.  All Members concurred with this suggestion in order that they could be assured of progress, improvements and to hold the JES to account in view of their scrutinising role.    

 

 

665     CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM JOINT EDUCATION SERVICE: ACTION IN RESPONSE TO WALES AUDIT OFFICE REPORT (CS) –

 

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, in presenting the report, advised that the Wales Audit Office had made the following four proposals:

 

The Council should establish and refine a performance management regime which will formally and systematically test the extent to which the Joint Education Service (JES) was providing a service that delivers to its expectations. 

 

The Council should undertake a risk assessment of the impact of the JES and update it on a regular basis.  It should include any high scoring strategic risks in its corporate risk register.  The Education and Skills Directorate should regularly and formally monitor and manage the remainder. 

 

The Council should ensure that there is sufficient investment in the development of the scrutiny function (in the Council and within the collaborative structure), including regular reviews of its success and challenges, as it becomes a feature of the performance management regime.

 

The Council should consider how the value of the service can be increased during the period of the contract, to justify the fixed contribution to the service.

 

It was further noted that work to address the four proposals had been taken forward as follows:

  • An interim performance management framework had been developed (Appendix 1) to measure progress on outcomes and organisational processes.  The interim performance management framework would be replaced by a commissioning framework which was currently in development for consideration by the Joint Education Committee.  It was intended that the new arrangements would be in place from April 2014.
  • A risk assessment had been undertaken and the completed document was attached as Appendix 2 to the report.  The high scoring risks were being added to the corporate risk register.   The remaining risks were being monitored on a quarterly basis by the Learning and Skills Directorate Management Team.
  • The draft initial terms of reference for the joint scrutiny committee were attached as Appendix 3 to the report.
  • A bid for resources to support the development of joint scrutiny arrangements for the Central South Consortium (CSC) had been made to Welsh Government in September, which had been well received by officials as innovative and meeting the criteria of the Welsh Government's Scrutiny Development Fund.  However, in light of the need to revise the governance arrangements of the regional education consortia following the Robert Hill review, colleagues in Welsh Government had advised that the terms of reference for the joint scrutiny committee be reconsidered in accordance with the CSC's new governance arrangements. 

Members in referring to progress of the Joint Scrutiny Committee were advised by the Chief Learning and Skills officer that the current position was not known although there had been some suggestion that joint scrutiny of this nature may not be the way forward. 

 

Notwithstanding the above, work remained to be completed and put in place in regard to robust arrangements to demonstrate an increased value for money in relation to the Joint Education Service.  From April 2014 the Welsh Government, on the basis of a national model for regional working, was expected to stipulate the level of funding that the Council must provide to the JES by way of a ring fencing agreement as well as the services that must be provided. 

 

The Chairman in conclusion referred to the earlier approval in the meeting that a work programme schedule be established where representatives of the CSC would be invited to Committee meetings and noting that an annual report would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in due course. 

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)          T H A T the actions taken in response to the proposals in the Wales Audit Office report be endorsed.

 

(2)          T H A T the Scrutiny Committee establishes a programme of work to scrutinise the Joint Education Service.

 

(3)          T H A T the report and the above recommendation be referred to Cabinet in order to advise of the intention of the Scrutiny Committee to hold the Joint Education Service to account.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)          In recognition of the actions taken and proposed.

 

(2)          In respect of the Scrutiny Committee’s monitoring role.

 

(3)          In order to advise Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee’s intention.

 

 

666     SCHOOL PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE END OF KEY STAGES 4 AND 5 (REF) –

 

Similarly to the Scrutiny Committee Cabinet had received a report on school performance at its meeting on 18th November, 2013.  Included in that report to Cabinet was also reference to the school progress meetings that had been set up to consider schools performance.  The report suggested that similar panels be also convened for St. Cyres, Bryn Hafren and Barry Comprehensive Schools following which it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T individual school progress meetings be set up with St. Cyres, Bryn Hafren and Barry Comprehensive Schools be set up as soon as possible.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure processes were in place for performance improvement..

 

N.B.  Ms. T. Young vacated the room whilst this item was being considered.

 

 

667     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSLAS 2014/15 (CLSO) –

 

The Council was required, under statute, to fix the level of Council Tax for 2014/15 by 11th March 2014 and in order to do so would have to agree a balanced Revenue Budget by the same date.  To be in a position to meet the statutory deadlines and requirements for consultation as set out within the Council’s Constitution, much of the work on quantifying the resource requirements of individual services needed to be carried out before the final Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement was notified to the Council.    The Council’s provisional settlement was announced on 16th October, 2013.  The Council’s Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) represented the Welsh Government’s (WG) view of the relative resources required to provide a standard level of service in each local authority in Wales and its primary use was to allocate RSG to these authorities.  For 2014/15 the Council’s provisional SSA was £214.384m.  

 

The Council had also been advised by the WG of its 2014/15 allocation in relation to RSG (£118.834m) and NNDR (£38.941m).  Together, these sums constituted the Council’s Aggregate External Finance (AEF).  This represented a cash reduction of 4.5% (£7.4m) for 2014/15 and was a larger reduction than the 4% projected in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan. 

 

The Council would also receive a sum provisionally set at £1.236m via the Outcome Agreement Grant (OAG) for 2014/15.  This grant was an unhypothecated grant (i.e. not earmarked for particular services).  It was noted that the Council was not necessarily guaranteed to receive the full amount of the OAG.  The amount for 2014/15 would be determined by a rating score of the Council’s performance in achieving its 2013/14 Outcome Agreement targets.

 

There were transfers into the RSG settlement for 2014/15 as follows:

 

Council Tax Reduction Scheme Administration Subsidy - £177k. This was previously received as a direct grant from the Department for Work and Pensions.

 

It was the Council's contention that WG had not included all the required adjustments to make the AEF comparative between years and that there was an actual cash reduction to the Council of 4.9%.  As part of the consultation process on the provisional settlement, the Leader of the Council was responding to WG on this issue.  Pay and price inflation results in a much higher decrease in real terms. The September Consumer Price Index stood at 2.7%.

 

WG had provided an indicative settlement figure for 2015/16 which showed a further cash reduction of 1.63% (£2.6m).  The MTFP was based on a cash reduction of 4%.   WG had not given any indication as to the level of settlement for 2016/17, however the MTFP was based on a further 4% cash reduction.  The assumptions made in the MTFP would, therefore, be reconsidered by the Budget Working Group (BWG) as part of the final budget proposals.

 

With regard to the revised budget for 2013/14, Appendix 1 to the report set out the necessary adjustments to the original estimate for this period.

 

The following table compared the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2013/14:

 

 

2013/14

2013/14

Variance

 

Amended

Original

Projected

 (+)Favourable

Directorate/Service

Budget

Outturn

 (-) Adverse

 

£’000

£’000

     £’000

Learning and Skills

 

 

 

Education and Schools

93,879

93,879

                           0

Libraries

2,606

2,606

                           0

Lifelong Learning 

193

193

                           0

Youth Service

1,127

1,127

                           0

Catering

1,743

1,743

                           0

 

 

 

                          

Grand Total

99,548

99,548

                           0

 

The Cabinet approved the Budget Strategy for 2014/15 on 29th July 2013 and, as in previous years, required all Directors to make the following provisions:

 

Supplementary estimates would only increase the base budget if Council had given specific approval to this effect. Increases met by virement within a year would not be treated as committed growth.

 

Directors 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 grant from outside bodies that had discontinued would not be treated as committed growth. In addition, before any project or initiative that was to be met either wholly or partly by way of grant may proceed, the exit strategy must be approved.

 

Certain items of unavoidable committed growth would continue and these include the effect of interest changes and the financing cost of the Capital Programme, increases in taxes, increases in levies and precepts charged by outside bodies and changes to housing benefits net expenditure.

 

Services would be expected to identify and achieve recurrent efficiency and other savings, including (but not restricted to) those identified in the Interim Medium Term Financial Plan.

 

It was envisaged that the costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective Directorates.

 

Having regard to the above, it was, therefore, proposed in respect of the 2014/15 Budget Strategy that Directors be instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets for 2014/15, in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Director of Resources.  Preparation should be on the following basis:

  • Capital charges, central accommodation costs and central support costs to be estimated centrally;
  • Services to prepare baseline budgets on current service levels as set out in the 2013/14 final revenue budget report;
  • Budgets to be broken down subjectively and objectively in as much detail as deemed appropriate by the Director of Resources;
  • Budget reports to include revised estimates for 2013/14;
  • Full account to be taken of the revenue costs, other than debt charges, of new capital schemes coming into use.

As a result of the reduction in the provisional settlement, the Authority would now have to identify additional savings to those originally approved for 2014/15.  It had also been necessary to revisit the cost pressures facing services in order to build up a complete and up to date picture of the financial position of the Council.  The updated list of cost pressures for this Committee was shown in Appendix 2 to the report.  These were not shown in any order of priority.

 

When approving the Budget Strategy for 2014/15, Directors had been asked to consider bringing forward the implementation of future years' savings ahead of the scheduled date.  This message was reinforced by Cabinet when approving the MTFP, where Directors were also asked to identify additional areas for savings.

 

The 2013/14 budget included approved savings targets for the years 2014/15 to 2016/17.  Directors had assessed future year savings in order to establish those that can be brought forward to supplement the 2014/15 savings.  In doing so, regard had been given to those savings which are time bound and cannot be accelerated.  Details of the approved areas for savings for 2014/15 for this Committee, together with proposals for savings to be brought forward were attached at Appendix 3 to the report.  The savings did not include the cost of potential redundancies.

 

A summary of the overall base budget for 2014/15 was attached at Appendix 4 to the report.  This had been arrived at by adjusting the 2013/14 budget for items such as inflation and unavoidable growth, but did not include identified cost pressures or savings.  These were shown as a note to the table and were further detailed in Appendices 2 and 3 respectively.  The total cost pressures for 2014/15 for the services within the remit of the Scrutiny Committee were noted at £1,988.

 

Once the base budget for 2014/15 for the Council as a whole had been established, it would  then be compared to the funding available to identify the extent of any shortfall.  With a provisional AEF of £157.775m and Council Tax at a current level of £53.567m, total available funding would be £211.342m.  When compared to a base budget of £221.196m, this would result in a funding shortfall for 2014/15 of £9.854m.  This shortfall was mainly attributable to the reduction in funding from WG, an increase in pay and price inflation and the requirement to fund committed growth.

 

If all identified cost pressures were funded for the whole of the Council, this would increase the shortfall to £15.838m.  If all proposed savings were achieved for the whole of the Council, the shortfall would be reduced to £8.539m as shown in the table below.

 

Projected Budget Shortfall 2014/15

 

 

£000

Funding Available

 

Provisional AEF

157,775

Council Tax

53,567

Provisional Funding Available

211,342

 

 

Base Budget

221,196

 

 

Provisional Shortfall Against Base Budget

9,854

 

 

Assume all Cost Pressures funded

5,984

 

 

Provisional Shortfall with Cost Pressures funded

15,838

 

 

Assume all Savings Achieved

(7,299)

 

 

Provisional Projected Shortfall for 2014/15

8,539

 

This level of shortfall was unprecedented.

 

Further work would be undertaken by the BWG when formulating the final budget proposals for 2014/15, which would include a review of the use of reserves, a possible increase in Council Tax, a review of all cost pressures, possible savings and the current financial strategies, in order to achieve a balanced budget.  The BWG would also look at the impact on the 2015/16 budget.

 

It would be extremely difficult in the short term to meet all of the budget shortfall through further savings next year.  This may require consideration of the use of substantial levels of reserves in 2014/15, thus allowing a more thorough review of options for savings and their implications, alternative methods of service delivery and collaborative ventures.

 

The General Fund Reserve as at 31st March 2014 was projected to stand at £11.858m.  The 2014/15 base budget proposal included the use of £1.5m from the General Fund reserve.  Cost pressures for 2014/15 include £500k for a reduction in the use of reserves, in line with the existing financial strategy.  A further reduction of £500k was also scheduled for 2015/16.  In light of the unprecedented funding shortfall, this strategy needed to be reviewed.  At this stage, it was proposed that a use of reserves to a maximum of £3.5m could be used in 2014/15.  The Section 151 Officer believed that the minimum balance on the General Fund Reserve should be no less than £7m.

 

The use of reserves to fund recurring expenditure can only be countenanced as part of a specific strategy to achieve a balanced budget in future years.  The consequence of such actions will be to increase the level of savings required in 2015/16 onwards.

 

In terms of the role of the Cabinet Budget Working Group, this Group would be holding a series of meetings with the relevant Cabinet Members and officers to consider the budget proposals.  Any recommendations from this Group would be submitted so that the Cabinet could make its final budget proposal by no later than 24th February 2014; before making its recommendation the Cabinet Budget Working Group would consider the comments made by all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees.

 

The Cabinet’s final budget proposals would be considered by Council on 5th March 2014. 

 

Members in considering the report reflected on the position with regard to the budget pressures facing the Council, agreed that the Budget Working Group would have a difficult task and with regret subsequently  

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the amended budget for 2013/14 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial Revenue Budget proposals for 2014/15 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the Scrutiny Committee’s responsibility for monitoring the budget.

 

(2)       With regard to the budget constraints facing the Authority.

 

 

668     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2014/15 (CLSO) -

 

Set out at Appendix A to the report were full details of the progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September 2013.

 

The report also referred to a carry forward of £146,000 for Oakfield Primary school that had been requested from the Oakfield new entrance and reception area scheme to 2014/15, when the funding would be used for pitches, external play and woodland school facilities as part of the 21st Century Schools funded proposals for Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oakfield Primary School. Cabinet had also agreed that further information would be provided where schemes had a value of over £500,000 and showed a variance of 20% or more. The following schemes met this criteria -

 

Learning in Digital (Wales) Grant - A large order £470,000 had been placed during September which would rectify the discrepancy between the profile and actual expenditure and ensure the grant was fully spent by the grant deadline in December 2013.

 

Ysgol Nant Talwg, Barry - The variance between actuals to date at the end of September and profiled budget had been due to a delay in issuing a certificate of payment. All required information was now in place and a payment made in October which brought the actuals to date in line with the profiled expenditure.

 

The Welsh Government (WG) had announced the provisional 2014/15 General Capital Funding on 16th October 2013.  The 2014/15 capital settlement represented a £246,000 (4.7%) increase in funding over the previous year’s allocation; however because this amount included the reinstatement of £280,000 transferred to supported borrowing for the Housing Revenue Account in 2013/14, the actual position for the Council was a reduction of £34,000 which represents a 0.61% cut.  The indicative amount provided by WG suggested that capital funding will be maintained at this level for 2015/16.  This has been reflected in the proposed Capital Programme 2014/15 to 2018/19.

 

Whilst the indicative amounts had been utilised in 2014/15 and 2015/16, for the purposes of this programme, the assumption of a 10% cut each year had been assumed in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.  In line with the financial strategy, the Council would mitigate the deteriorating situation by looking to progress only those schemes which were deemed to be a key corporate priority, whilst also seeking to gain assurance that such schemes were delivered on time and within budget.

 

In addition to funding from the WG, the Council would finance part of the Capital Programme from its own resources, e.g. Capital Receipts and Reserves.  Set out in Appendix B was the proposed 2014/15 to 2018/19 Capital Programme for services under the Committee’s remit. 

 

Analysis of Net Funding Required for the Indicative 2014/15 Capital Programme

 

GENERAL FUND

£’000     

£’000

Welsh Government Resources

 

 

Supported Borrowing

3,438

 

General Capital Grant

2,092

 

 

 

  5,530

 

Council Resources

 

 

Capital Receipts

2,509

 

Reserves/Leasing

6,095

 

Unsupported Borrowing

5,600

 

 

 

14,204

Net Capital Resources

 

19,734

 

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT

£’000       

£’000        

Housing Reserves                                                       

7,387

 

Housing Capital Receipts                                                 

1,525

 

Housing Unsupported Borrowing                   

6,034

 

 

 

 

Net Capital Resources

 

  14,946

 

 

Capital bids had been invited for return by 30th September 2013 and the number of bids received was reduced from the high volume in the previous year. This reduction reflected that the Capital Programme had been set to 2017/18 following the budget review that took place as part of the 2013/14 budget process.  Departments were requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission, and bids from each Department were forwarded to the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) for evaluation.

 

The Budget Working Group had prioritised bids based upon the recommendations of the CAMG and were shown in Appendix B.  The method of prioritisation used in the Council’s Capital Investment Strategy was set out in the report for information.  Only those schemes assessed as corporate priority 1 or medium risk and above were included. 

 

In addition to bids meeting the criteria for inclusion in the Capital Programme, there had been a number of changes approved by Cabinet since the final budget proposals in February 2013 that impacted on the Capital Programme, such as, amendments to the budgets carried forward and these changes were included.  Also reflected in Appendix B were proposed changes to the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.

 

As in the case of the consideration of the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals, similar arrangements were in place for the Scrutiny Committees to pass their comments to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) who would, on behalf of all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees, formally respond to Cabinet by no later than 13th December 2013.  However, Scrutiny Committees were being asked to first consider the indicative Capital Proposals as set out in Appendix B.  If a change to the initial proposals was desired, the Scrutiny Committee was required to provide a reason for this need in order to assist the Cabinet and the CBWG in their deliberation when drawing up the final proposals.  The total net capital expenditure of the proposed programme for the whole of the Council over the five years was over £102m.  

 

Managers would be asked to revisit the schemes listed in Appendix B and to confirm final cost and spend profiles prior to the final proposals being considered by Cabinet by no later than 24th February, 2014.  Cabinet’s final Capital Programme proposals would be considered by Council no later than 5th March, 2013.

 

If the schemes proposed for the whole of the Council were approved, the effects on General Fund useable capital receipts were as follows:

 

General Fund Capital Receipts

          £'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2014

7,940

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

(2,656)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

885

Balance as at 31st March 2015

6,169

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

0

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

0

Balance as at 31st March 2016

6,169

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

(2,237)

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

0

Balance as at 31st March 2017

3,932

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2017/18

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2017/18

0

Balance as at 31st March 2018

3,932

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2018/19

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2018/19

0

Balance as at 31st March 2019

3,932

 

In line with the overall strategy and specific suggestions proposed by the Budget Working Group (BWG), in order to resource the Capital Programme, reserves will be utilised over the period of the Capital Programme 2014/15 to 2018/19.

 

The Project Fund would be used to fund schemes assessed on an invest to save basis, and in certain circumstances business critical schemes may also be funded from this reserve with the prior approval of the Director of Resources.  A balance of £2m would be retained as a balance on this fund.  The projected usage of this reserve, for the whole of the Council, over the period of the Capital Programme was shown below:

 

Project Fund

             £'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2014

4,217

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

(1,754)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

402

Balance as at 31st March 2015

2,865

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

(450)

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

100

Balance as at 31st March 2016

2,515

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

(400)

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

60

Balance as at 31st March 2017

2,175

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2017/18

(100)

Anticipated Receipts – 2017/18

60

Balance as at 31st March 2018

2,135

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2018/19

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2018/19

0

Balance as at 31st March 2019

2,135

 

The above forecast balances needed to be seen in the context of significant pressures for spending which were not yet included in the Capital Programme.  These pressures included the backlog of school, highways and buildings improvements. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposed Capital Programme for 2014/15 as detailed in Appendix B to the report be endorsed.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In acknowledgement of the budget proposals contained within the report and the budget constraints of the Authority. 

 

 

669     END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT 2012/13: NATIONAL STRATEGIC INDICATORS AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURES (CLSO) -

 

Under the Local Government Act 1999 the Wales Programme for Improvement and the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 the Council was required to secure continuous improvement across the full range of local services for which it was responsible and to collect a range of performance data to be submitted to the Welsh Government and the Local Government Data Unit.  The report highlighted that a total of 40 indicators were relevant to the Scrutiny Committee in the following areas:  education (11), Children’s Services (Education Related) (2) and Libraries (1). 

 

CMT received a report on 20 November 2013 providing information about each performance indicator not in the top quartile and any improvement work being undertaken.  The following bullet points provide the background to each indicator not in the top quartile and encompass: whether indicators were seen as a useful representation of performance, whether the Council could be confident that indicators were being reported in line with the definitions across Wales, where improvements had already been made and where further improvements could be made.

 

EDU016a Percentage of pupil attendance in primary schools –

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the second quartile. Attendance in primary schools improved by 0.8% to 94.5% in 2011-12 and was ranked =6th highest in Wales LAs.  FSM benchmarking comparisons placed the Vale 2nd for primary school attendance.  Analysis of absence distribution within primary schools in 2011-12 indicated that a higher proportion of pupils had high levels of attendance (94%+) and a lower proportion had low levels of attendance (<90%) compared with the all-Wales means.  Unauthorised absence reduced to 1.1% in 2012 but was above the Welsh average (0.7%).  A significant proportion of unauthorised absences (0.4%) were attributable to family holidays being taken in term time. Vale primary schools do not award attendance marks for holidays taken in term time as a strategy to deter absence which may not be a common approach nationally.

 

EDU016b Percentage of pupil attendance in secondary schools –

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the second quartile. Attendance in secondary schools improved by 1.4% to 92.7% in 2011-12, this was the highest percentage increase in Wales.  This level was above the Welsh average and was the 7th highest in Wales LAs.  Analysis of absence distribution within secondary schools in 2011-12 indicated that a similar proportion of pupils had high levels of attendance (94%+) and low levels of attendance (<90%) compared to the all-Wales means.  Unauthorised absences fell to 1% in 2011-12 and ranked the Vale 9th against the other LAs.  This was a significant improvement and was below the Welsh mean of 1.4%.

 

EDU004A The percentage of pupils assessed at the end of Key Stage 3, in schools maintained by the local authority, achieving the Core Subject Indicator, as determined by Teacher Assessment – 

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the third quartile. The NSI performance was based on the performance achieved in the 2011/12 academic year.  As a result of this underperformance, the Council made significant steps to improve during the 2012/13 academic year.  As a result the Council’s performance for the 2012/13 academic year was 83%.  This was a 14% increase in our performance and placed the Council in the top quartile for 2012/13, ranked 4th in Wales.  Further improvement work was planned as part of the Council’s Improvement Plan 2013/14.

 

EDU006ii The percentage of pupils assessed, in schools maintained by the local authority, receiving a Teacher Assessment in Welsh (first language) at the end of Key Stage 3 –

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the third quartile. 8.4% of pupils received a teacher assessment in Welsh at the end of Key Stage 4 in 2012/13 (academic year 2011/12).  This placed the Council in the third quartile, in 16th place for Wales.  This was not something the Council was contemplating taking action to improve considerably; we would expect our figures to be considerably lower in this area than, for example, the authorities in North Wales.  The Council would continue to expand Welsh provision according to need.  Our performance is roughly equivalent to the South East Wales average.

 

EDU015a The percentage of final statements of special education need issued within 26 weeks, including exceptions –

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the bottom quartile. The figure for 2012/13 was 48%.  The implementation of the action plan had resulted in significant improvements in this measure. The current figure for 2013/14 was 100%.

 

EDU015b The percentage of final statements of special education need issued within 26 weeks, excluding exceptions –  

Performance for 2012/13 (2011/12 academic year) was in the bottom quartile. The figure for 2012/13 was 95.7%.  The implementation of the action plan had resulted in maintaining this high level of performance.  The current figure for 2013/14 was 100%.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the improvement actions that were currently being undertaken with the aim of improving the Council’s performance by the end of the current financial year. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance results and areas identified for improvement be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)          To report on service performance in line with statutory requirements and the council's Performance Management Framework and monitoring arrangements.

 

(2)          To consider the end of year performance results to identify service areas for improvement work.

 

(3)          To ensure the continuous improvement of council services

 

 

670     CONSULTATION ON THE REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (CLSO) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee had been made aware at its meeting on 13th November of the reasons for the fundamental review of the library and information service, with it being noted that the review group would take the opportunity to consult with the Scrutiny Committee during December 2013.  The Review Group was therefore asking a number of questions for the Committee to consider which were detailed as follows:

 

What should the library service of the future look like?

How can our communities help deliver services in the future and how can libraries better support our communities?  

How can our partners help deliver services and how can libraries better support our partners?

How can we reduce costs?

How can we increase income?

 

A questionnaire was attached at Appendix A to the report and also available online.  It was noted that Members could respond on an individual basis but also the views of the Scrutiny Committee were being sought. 

 

In considering the report reference was made to the five questions contained within the report and the following discussion took place:-

 

Members considered that it was important that the buildings were utilised in various ways although it was the consensus that any business ventures would need careful consideration as to not be a direct competition with other businesses in the locality.  It was accepted that libraries were an integral part of the community and the possibility of other Council services being provided at these premises could be looked at.  Revisions could also be made to the costs of hiring rooms and facilities at the libraries, in particular the possibility of increasing costs for photocopying and the possibility of charging for computer usage. It was suggested that the first two hours of computer use could be free and any time after that charged for. 

 

In response to a suggestion that volunteers could be used to run library services, the Head of Service advised that similar courses of action had been taken in many English local authorities with many different models being considered.  Reference was also made to the role the library service had in developing literacy in the community and that this could be considered further in the future.

 

Members were informed that to date the responses to the consultation had been considerable and that these would be analysed with a further report being presented to the Committee in due course.  The Head of Service stated that although there were significant financial challenges facing the Authority the need to consider ways to sustain the library service was the aim of the review in order to prevent closure and achieve sustainability.  Officers were also asked to consider providing child friendly questionnaires as young people often had very good ideas that could be utilised.  The Youth Service had been utilised in this regard but any further consultation was limited at this stage due to the limited timescale for the review but  this could be considered for the future. 

 

Having fully considered the report the Chairman took the opportunity to encourage all Members to engage in the process following which it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)          T H A T the comments of the Scrutiny Committee as outlined above be included in the consultation being undertaken.

 

(2)          T H A T the Committee receives a further report on the outcome of the review in March 2014.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)          To allow Members the opportunity to take part in the review.

 

(2)          To monitor the outcomes.

 

 

N.B. Mr. L. Kellaway vacated the room whilst this item was being discussed.

 

 

671     SCHOOL RE-ORGANISATION PROPOSALS FOR WELSH MEDIUM PRIMARY SCHOOLING IN BARRY (CLSO) –

 

In view of his declaration of interest the Chairman vacated the Chair and Councillor E. Williams was appointed Chairman for the duration of the consideration of the item.

 

Following the report to the Scrutiny Committee on 14th October 2013, the Committee had recommended to receive additional information and supporting data in relation to the proposal to expand Ysgol Gwaun y Nant to meet increasing parental demand.  In May 2013 a reassessment of pupil projections including potential LDP housing allocation sites had been carried out, the data for which was included in Appendix A to the report.  The report highlighted that it was not known when homes on the allocated housing sites would be built and occupied as it was wholly dependent upon the developers for each site.  However, in order to consider the full impact of the allocated housing sites on schools, the pupil projections assumed that all developments would be completed by 2018. 

 

The reduction in surplus capacity arising from population growth alone demonstrated the need to retain all existing schools and expand Welsh Medium provision in Barry as approved by Cabinet

 

The pupil projections included within Appendix A showed that an additional 73 places (25 At Ysgol Gwaun y Nant, 4 at Ysgol Sant Baruc, 34 at Ysgol Sant Curig and 10 at Ysgol Nant Talwg) would be required in the existing Welsh medium schools by 2018 if all potential housing developments were included within the projection.  The pupil projections for Welsh Medium schools were calculated using the current percentage of parents expressing a preference for Welsh Medium reception places.  In 2013 16% of parents expressed a preference for Welsh Medium education at reception level; this had increased from 10.2% in 2006.  This growth in the popularity of Welsh Medium was anticipated to continue which could result in a higher number of children attending Welsh Medium education than was currently forecast.

 

In order to meet this increased demand in Barry a number of different options had been considered before arriving at the preferred option. A new 210 place school could be built in Barry on a new site but no suitable sites were identified under the remit of Learning and Skills. An alternative approach used by other Local Authorities had been to utilise surplus capacity within existing schools, however the pupil projections demonstrate that this was not a long term option in Barry. The expansion of Ysgol St Baruc to 420 places was not achievable due to the confined school site which could not be increased in size due to surrounding buildings. Ysgol St. Curig had capacity for 420 children but had insufficient grounds to provide sports provision to meet the needs of 630 children. Ysgol Nant Talwg was located on the same site as Ysgol Bro Morgannwg; building work on a 210 place school started in November 2013 and the new school was due to open in September 2014.  The further expansion on Ysgol Nant Talwg was not favoured as this could jeopardise the possible future expansion of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg to meet increased numbers of Welsh Medium secondary school pupils.  Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oak Field Primary occupied a joint site totalling 29,300m2 which exceeded current area guidelines and had sufficient area to accommodate the expansion of Ysgol Gwaun y Nant to 420 from 210 places.

 

Research suggested that the quality of where pupils learn affected the quality of how they learn.  To have the greatest impact the learning environment should support and enhance the learning process, encourage innovation and be a tool for learning.  Improvements to the learning environment of both Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oak Field Primary school would be delivered through the preferred option.

 

The location of the new Oak Field Primary school would be determined following consultation with both Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oak Field Primary to fully consider the educational needs and aspirations of both schools and the local community.  At present no decision had been made regarding the location of the new school on site.

 

The expansion of Welsh Medium education was being proposed to meet increasing parental demand in the Barry area. The Authority had a legal duty to meet this demand and would need to find alternative schools to meet this demand if Ysgol Gwaun y Nant was not expanded.  Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oak Field Primary have occupied the same site since 2000 and the Authority had no evidence that this co-location had had a detrimental effect on either school.

 

In noting the preferred option to build a new pattern book design school for Oak Field Primary and remodel the existing school to increase capacity to 420 places for Ysgol Gwaun y Nant this had been estimated to cost £3,645,000 which had been met from the existing funding available within the Capital Programme.  It was noted that this would be approximately £430,000 less than the cost to remodel and extend Ysgol Gwaun y Nant. 

 

A Member raised a concern as to whether establishing a new building would exacerbate school surplus places. In response the Head of Service advised that having regard to the draft Local Development Plan it had been considered necessary that these places would assist and plan had provided a basis for the school projections that had to be established.  It was also noted that the Welsh Government had requested that the Authority should not have more than 10% school surplus places and that the projections showed that even if fewer houses were built than envisaged in the draft LDP and allowing for the planned new school and the proposed expansion, any surplus places would be significantly below that level.  There also needed to be some flexibility with school surplus places and the Cabinet Member, with permission to speak, advised that in relation to Barry there were at least 1,700 houses that were to be built in the area that had recently been approved at Planning Committee meetings.  In his view the projections were fair and the need for Welsh Medium within the area had been identified. 

 

Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson, with permission to speak, also stated that even though the Council may not have 3,000 houses by 2008 it had to have regard to Welsh Medium requirements and the projection showed that this would fill the gap. 

Following the consultation process, Members were informed that the responses would be assessed at the end of February with plans to report to Cabinet soon thereafter.  The Committee also requested to receive the details of that feedback in due course. 

 

Having fully considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the decision to expand Ysgol Gwaun y Nant to meet increasing parental demand for Welsh Medium education in Barry be supported. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having considered the detailed information contained within the report.

 

 

672     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORT: QUARTER 2 – LEARNING AND SKILLS (CLSO) –

 

It was noted that Learning and Skills was well on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 88% of actions currently either completed or on track.  The contribution to the Corporate Plan was also on course with 90% of the actions on track for completion and of the 51 actions within the service plan 5 had been completed, 41 were on track with 5 having slipped.  The Department was also 100% on track to achieving the actions contributing to its Improvement Objectives where, of the 12 actions, 2 had been completed and 10 were on track. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance monitoring report for Learning and Skills Directorate for Quarter 2 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the progress contained within the report. 

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