SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)
Minutes of a meeting held on 8th December, 2014.
Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, F.T. Johnson, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.
Co-opted Member: Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector).
Non-voting Observer: Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).
Also present: Councillors S.C. Egan, C.P.J. Elmore, Dr. I.J. Johnson and N. Moore.
665 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman), Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and T.H. Jarvie.
666 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 10th November, 2014 be approved as a correct record, it being noted that Councillor Ms. K.E. Edmunds had provided her apologies.
667 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
The following declarations were received:
Councillor Mrs. C.L. Curtis
Agenda Item No. 7 – she was a minor Authority School Governor for Colcot Primary School and Ysgol St. Curig.
Dr. C. Brown
Agenda Item No. 7 – she was a School Governor for Llantwit Major Comprehensive School.
668 ESTYN MONITORING VISIT LETTER AND OVERVIEW –
The Estyn Inspector, Mr. G. Kerslake was present in order to deliver an overview following the Estyn monitoring visit that took place during 13th – 15th October 2014.
He advised the Committee that this was the first such visit to a Scrutiny Committee within Wales which had come about following the recommendation from the Welsh Government around the improvement in co-operative working across Wales.
As a brief background summary he advised that the Local Authority’s Education Services Inspection took place approximately 18 months ago and, as a consequence, the Inspectors’ overall judgement had been that the service was adequate.
A Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP) had been prepared to address the recommendations of the Estyn Inspection Report and an Estyn monitoring programme has been put in place.
The Committee was advised that the overall outcome following the monitoring visit was that the authority was making good progress in areas evaluated. The purpose of today’s overview was to provide an update in respect of progress made against Recommendations 2 – Improve the rigour and the level of challenge provided to schools about their performance and quality of leadership and also recommendation 6 – Strengthen arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people.
Recommendation 2 – Improve the rigour and the level of challenge provided to schools about their performance and quality of leadership
Mr. Kerslake advised the Committee that during the visit held during October it had been reported that the Authority was making good progress in addressing this recommendation. At the time of the inspection it had been found that officers did not evaluate provision well enough and relied too heavily on performance data to categorise schools. There was also too much variation in the quality of work undertaken and the quality assurance of work was not robust enough to make sure that schools were challenged consistently.
During the year since the inspection, Challenge Advisors had taken steps to evaluate provision and leadership more effectively and it had been noted that the Authority had worked well with Headteachers, Governors and the Regional School Improvement Service, Central South Consortium Joint Education Service to secure improvements.
Overall the Authority had responded appropriately to shortcomings in leadership in several schools since the inspection.
Mr. Kerslake also made reference to the evaluation of the Authority’s use of intervention powers around school improvements. He commented about the Authority’s use of formal warning notices to three secondary schools outlining concerns about performance and other issues. In one case, the letter was issued in response to shortcomings highlighted during an Estyn inspection of the school, but in the other two cases the Local Authority had acted on its own evaluations. Estyn had judged that the Authority had used its powers effectively and, in all cases, the Authority had clearly set out targets for improvement and ensured that, primarily through the Regional Service, support was available to help schools address the shortcomings.
Recommendation 6 – Strengthen arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people
In summarising the Authority’s progress in relation to this recommendation, Mr. Kerslake advised that the Local Authority had responded well to this recommendation.
The implementation of the Local Authority’s Wellbeing in Education Strategy 2012-2015 had developed well since the inspection. The Monitoring and Evaluation Group effectively drove forward the management of this strategy, through a better focus on both a thematic approach to wellbeing as well as interventions and support for schools.
An important outcome of the Wellbeing Strategy was the production of two very useful data packs on wellbeing measures. However, the Estyn Inspectors had considered that these were not being used to best effect and that there was opportunity to develop these further.
The first data pack related to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) and it had been felt that the use of these data packs did not fully take into account the wider life aspects of what impacts on pupils’ daily lives. The second data pack provided clearly laid out and easily understandable data from across a range of indicators. These data packs provided the basis for discussion between Local Authority officers, Challenge Advisors and senior management teams and the Governors within schools. It had been felt that although the presentation of the data was clear, the evaluations arising from this information did not pose key questions effectively enough. Challenge Advisors were also not involved in the evaluation of data prior to the packs being distributed to schools and this meant that there may be inconsistencies in the evaluation messages being given by the Authority and by the Regional Service.
Members were advised that impact evaluations provided a useful snapshot of wider work undertaken by many services but generally they did not include enough detail or quantitative measures to support the conclusions drawn.
In referring to the rate of exclusions within secondary schools, it had been noted that rates of exclusion for five days or fewer and six days or more had increased. The Authority demonstrated that it clearly understood the reasons for this and it was thought that this matter was being addressed appropriately.
Improvement had also been noted around how the Local Authority tracked, identified and supported young people who had the potential to become NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). It had been judged that the Authority used appropriate measures and had targeted intervention at school level. This partnership had also improved the exchange of information between stakeholders and, as a result, partners identified more quickly those that dropped out of the system and kept a better track of those young people who needed help and support to remain engaged. It had been highlighted that the sustainability of this work was not financially secure and it was not clear whether the work would continue after grant funding finished.
In referring to the next steps of the evaluation, Mr. Kerslake advised that a final visit would be held in due course. This would lead to a judgement of whether the Authority could be removed from the Estyn monitoring or, if not, what further follow-up was required. The final visit would result in a published report.
Opportunity was then afforded to Members to make any comments or observations.
The Chairman commented that the Estyn plans for an interim monitoring visit in the Spring was no longer envisaged due to the progress to date made by the Authority. This therefore offered a measure of confidence from Estyn that sufficient progress was being made. He went on to ask if further information could be provided around children and young people not in employment, education or training. In reply, the Director of Learning and Skills provided some up to date performance information regarding NEETS and she advised that for Year 11 leavers there had been a reduction from 3.9% to 3.8% and that on the basis of unpublished data for Autumn 2014 this had now dropped down to 2.76%.
In respect to changes around Welsh Government grant funding, she commented that the service was anticipating a year on year reduction. The service was now planning for the full year from April 2015 and she advised that 11 grants would be consolidated to one overall Education Improvement Grant allocated on a regional footprint. Members were advised that at present the Authority received grant funding through the 14-19 Initiatives and that this money, when allocated on a regional basis, would come under control of the Central South Consortium. The Committee was further advised that the current Engagement and Progression Grant provided funding for a Progression Officer and that a decision would need to be taken in the future as to how this would continue.
In response to a query regarding the Authority’s use of data packs, Mr. Kerslake advised that there was a need to develop the process and that it was important to ensure that all relevant parties were able to contribute at the necessary stages. A Committee Member, in querying as to what was being done differently around the data packs, was advised that officers had been able to gain a greater insight following detailed discussions with Inspectors. Officers had been able to use commentary around data packs to help inform improvements; the data pack would be updated on a termly basis.
Referring to the development of School Progress Panels, a Committee Member sought Estyn’s opinion as to whether this approach was a step in the right direction. Mr. Kerslake advised that the Progress Panels had not been seen during the period of inspection but the principle had been adopted by a number of Local Authorities in Wales. Estyn would encourage Local Authorities to exercise closer observations around service delivery, not just around underperformance but also in relation to identifying good practice. It was important for Authorities to drill down and address specific issues within schools and it was important not just to rely on data and performance information.
At this point the Chairman stated that the Panels had provided Members with an invaluable amount of knowledge and he found that in each school that they had visited there were various shortcomings highlighted and that all issues were being addressed.
A Member made reference to the importance of school Governors and the findings of the Inspection around the lack of training for Governors. The Member queried whether this was due to the inadequacies of training or due to Governors’ unwillingness to attend sessions. In response Mr. Kerslake advised that the findings were highlighted during 2013 but that since then there had been a number of areas of improvement and some excellent progress made. He was not however able to expand further on the 2013 evaluation. At this point the Director of Learning and Skills advised that previous Governor feedback to Inspectors had highlighted the need for improved training. Since then, Governors were now in a much better position and more able to challenge the school and its leadership team. Further to this point, a Committee Member voiced the opinion that as a Governor of the school, he did agree that the level of information provided to Governors had improved.
The Cabinet Member, in offering some of his thoughts, stated that overall the evaluation letter was good, but the Authority would not rest on its laurels and that work around improvements would continue. It was important to make good on progress achieved and he offered his reassurance to Committee that this work would carry on. He alluded to the importance of challenging schools and he advised that all parts of the Estyn inspection would be addressed and that it should be hoped that the Authority would be placed outside of Estyn monitoring following its final visit.
Mr. Kerslake was thanked for providing the overview and the Committee subsequently
(1) T H A T the letter received from the Estyn Assistant Director attached at Appendix 1 to the report be noted.
(2) T H A T the Estyn monitoring report, letter and the Committee’s comments be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.
(3) T H A T the progress and improvements made to date be noted.
(4) T H A T the Committee’s thanks and gratitude be passed on to the staff within the Directorate.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To note the information contained therein.
(2) To inform Members and Cabinet of the outcome of the recent monitoring visit by Estyn.
(3) To highlight the progress made following the recent monitoring visit.
(4) To pass on the thanks of the Members of the Scrutiny Committee.
669 PRESENTATION BY CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM – PROGRESS UPDATE –
Councillor C.P.J. Elmore, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, had been appointed Chairman of the Central South Consortium and in this role he was able to apprise the Scrutiny Committee on progress and future plans.
He began by providing Members with a brief overview as to how regional consortium came to be created. A number of years ago the then Welsh Minister for Education issued policy guidance that allowed for the development of regional consortiums with aim to improve the delivery of education within Wales. The Central South Consortium (the Consortium) was created in 2012 and was commissioned by five Local Authorities, namely Bridgend, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhonda Cynon Taff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
During 2013 it had been identified that some improvements to the structure of governance arrangements of the Consortium needed to take place. It had been felt that the structure was not suitably robust and that the level of challenge provided was not at a satisfactory level. Following a Welsh Government review, the governing arrangements and structure of the Consortium was changed and since 2012 the new structure included the following:
· Joint Committee
· Advisory Board
· Directors Steering Group
· Governors Steering Group
· Headteacher Steering Group
· Service Operational Group.
In his role as Chairman of the Joint Committee, the Cabinet Member wanted to expand his role and improve the level of information sharing between the Consortium and the Local Authorities. This was in order to have greater direct accountability between the regional body and the commissioning Authorities. He went on to comment that through his role of Chairman, he wanted to improve the way the Consortium engaged with schools. He wanted to encourage greater self-evaluation within schools that was delivered within their own internal structures. He also alluded to the need for all schools to improve performance, not just those identified as failing and that all schools should be further encouraged to identify and use best practice.
The Committee was asked to note that from April 2015 there would be three new functions. These included the 14-19 Education, specialist human resources support for schools and also Governor support and training. Officers would be appointed to ensure that the three areas would be delivered in a consistent manner.
As a final point, the Cabinet Member made comment that although joint scrutiny arrangements had not been agreed, there would be future scope to look at this and take this further. He also stated that the Consortium had come a long way and would continue with the progress currently being worked upon.
In response to a Committee Member questioning the value added through the creation of the Consortium, the Cabinet Member advised that the first and most obvious would be in relation to the financial aspect, where the Council could compare the current amount paid out to the level previously allocated. He also stated that although much progress had been made within the Vale of Glamorgan, this was not the same picture throughout the whole of Wales. The current arrangements ensured that there was more robust challenge made of schools and that previous relationships between Local Authorities and Headteachers needed to be developed.
Further to this query, the Director of Learning and Skills advised that the service continually asked the question as to what value did membership of the Consortium bring. She stated that not all improvements were down to one agency, but close collaborative working between the five Local Authorities and the Joint Education Service had helped to improve standards. She further added that schools within the Vale of Glamorgan had all been supported by being part of a School Improvement Group that allowed for greater sharing of best practice. She questioned whether the range of improvements would be sustainable if the service was on its own: the Consortium provided a more robust model for school improvement. She referred to further efficiencies being considered by the Consortium’s management of its own budget and that in the future there would be some opportunity to get greater value from membership of the Consortium.
A Committee Member, in referring to their role as a School Governor, was of the opinion that many Governors were not fully aware of their full role and responsibilities. He queried whether the Consortium could provide help and assistance around this. In response the Cabinet Member advised that yes, the Consortium could help address this issue around a consistent approach to training and raising the awareness of Governors. He stated that some Local Authorities employed clerks directly in order to offer support to Governors. This was not currently done directly within the Vale of Glamorgan. He concurred with the Committee Member’s view of the need to raise the awareness of Governors in respect of their roles and responsibilities. He also considered that there was a need to create an information pack in order to assist Governors to fully understand their roles and to understand the makeup of school governing arrangements and what should be taking place. Finally, he also referred to some issues regarding the appointment of Minor Authority Governors and also to the level of influence apportioned to the Local Authority in respect of Co-opted and Parent Governors.
The Chairman thanked the Cabinet Member for the update report.
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Chairman of the Central South Consortium Joint Committee be thanked for his update report.
Reason for recommendation
To offer the thanks of the Scrutiny Committee.
670 INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2015/16 (DLS) –
Initial Revenue Budget proposals for 2015/16 were submitted for consultation together with the Amended Original Budget for 2014/15 for the Scrutiny Committee’s information.
Appendix 1 to the report set out the Amended Budget for 2014/15 together with the necessary adjustments to be made to the original budget. It was report that these adjustments however, had no overall effect on the net budget of the Council and were as follows:
Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19, Transfers and Recharges - These were accounting adjustments largely outside the control of services. They reflected charges for the use of capital assets, changes to inter-service recharges and transfers and pensions adjustments to comply with accounting standards. Also included were transfers of functions and responsibilities between Directorates as detailed below :-
- £336,000 from Children and Young People’s Service to Education in respect of the transfer of responsibility for the Children and Young People's Partnership.
- £19,000 to Children and Young People’s Service from Education as an additional contribution towards the jointly funded Residential Placements budget for Looked After Children.
- £36,000 to Property from Education in respect of school planning and buildings officers.
The projected outturn for the Learning and Skills Directorate was a balanced budget when compared to the amended original budget. However, with regard to the service areas the following information was presented :-
Central Education - The Central Education budget was anticipated to underspend by £181,000 due to a favourable variance within Strategy and Resources and it had been requested that any underspend identified at year end was directed into the Schools Rationalisation Reserve to use towards the costs of the 21st Century Schools Investment and Reorganisation Programme. Repayments relating to the schools’ Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy Scheme would result in £145,000 being transferred into the Schools’ Early Retirement / Voluntary Redundancy Invest To Save reserve.
School Improvement and Inclusion - This service it was reported would outturn on target. The budget had been decreased by £664,000 to fund the secondary Learning Support Assistant (LSA) provision for pupils with statements and additional learning needs in secondary schools. Provision had also been made within the budget to fund £596,000 for secondary LSAs, with the shortfall of £68,000 being funded through a staffing underspend on Educational Psychologists of £58,000 and an underspend on the Secondary Behaviour budget of £10,000.
The Hospital and Home Tuition budget was anticipated to overspend by £20,000, which would be met through an underspend on the Safeguarding and Wellbeing team. The revised budget had made a one off transfer of £95,000 from Recoupment income to fund LSAs for primary pupils with statements.
Strategy and Resources - The Strategy and Resources budget would underspend by £181,000 due to the favourable variance on mainstream school transport of £150,000, staffing underspends on Education Finance and ICT of £38,000, an underspend on independent nursery placements of £21,000, which would be offset by a predicted overspend on SEN transport of £28,000.
Schools - The delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance as any variance was to be carried forward through school reserves. The schools’ delegated budget had increased by £664,000 due to the LSA transfer for secondary pupils with Statements and Additional Learning Needs.
Libraries- The Libraries service was anticipating an underspend on salaries of £80,000 due to vacant posts not being filled pending the libraries’ review. It had been requested that the underspend be used to fund possible pressures following the review.
Adult Community Learning - The Adult and Community Learning (ACL) budget had increased by £42,000 as a result of the transfer of the ACL ICT admin support budget from Central Education. The service would outturn at revised budget after transferring £63,000 from reserves to assist with funding reductions from Welsh Government and Cardiff and Vale College, the delay in implementing the restructure of the service and redundancy costs relating to the new structure.
There was currently an adverse variance on Adult Community Learning Cost Recovery of £28,000 however, it was very early in the academic year and there were many more courses planned for the new year. Further action was being taken to maximise income generation and it was envisaged that the budget would balance by the end of the financial year, with any shortfall being funded from the Adult Community Learning reserve.
Youth Service - The Youth Service was projected to outturn at the revised budget after transferring an estimated £128,000 from reserves. £79,000 would be used to assist with the implementation of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework in schools with £49,000 being used to cover the estimated dilapidation costs in relation to Area 41. Any increase in the dilapidation costs would be funded from the Youth Service reserve.
In referring to the catering this was anticipated to outturn on target.
The Budget Strategy of the Council had been approved by Cabinet on 30th June 2014, with Directors being instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets for 2015/16 in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Managing Director.
The Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2014/15 to 2017/18 had been approved by Cabinet on 11th August 2014 and the 2014/15 Final Revenue budget proposals had set saving targets between 2015/16 and 2016/17 of £13.5m, but this excluded schools. It was however based on the anticipated reduction in funding from Welsh Government of 1.64% in 2015/16 and a further 1% in 2016/17. At the time the MTFP had been produced the Welsh Government had advised reductions in funding of up to 4.5% and the MTFP had therefore been produced using the assumption of a reduction in funding of 4.5% in 2015/16, a further 4% reduction in 2016/17 and a 2% reduction in 2017/18. The Plan had also factored in a managed level of cost pressures, a notional increase in Council Tax of 2% each year, price inflation of 2% and annual pay awards of 1% each year from 2015/16.
The Council’s provisional settlement for 2015/16 had been announced by Welsh Government on 8th October 2014 of £212.270m for its provisional Standards Spending Assessment (SSA). The Council would also receive from Welsh Government a Revenue Support Grant of £115.982m and a share of the Non Domestic rates of £36.525m. Welsh Government had advised that this would be a cash reduction of 3.4%, however, when taking into account an additional burden for the Local Government Borrowing Initiative for 21st Century Schools, this actually represented a cash reduction of 3.5%. This was a smaller reduction than the 4.5% projected in the MTFP and had therefore been taken into account as part of the initial budget proposals for 2015/16.
As a result of the anticipated reduction in future years’ settlements, the MTFP identified additional savings to those originally approved and 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. When approving the budget strategy for 2015/15 Directors had been asked to review savings already approved with a view to implementing them ahead of the target date and to consider areas for further savings. Details of the proposed areas for savings for 2015/16 to 2017/18 for the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) were attached at Appendix 3 to the report. The savings however, did not include the cost of any potential redundancies.
A summary of the overall base budget for 2015/16 was attached at Appendix 4 to the report. Adjustments shown in the appendix included the following:
Asset Rents, International Accounting Standards (IAS) 19, relating to accounting items outside the control of the service. These would reflect charges to services for the use of capital assets and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards.
Recharges/Transfers related to inter-service and inter Directorate recharges and included the following:
- £336,000 from Children and Young People’s Service to Education in respect of the transfer of responsibility for the Children and Young People's Partnership.
- £19,000 to Children and Young People’s Service from Education as an additional contribution towards the jointly funded Residential Placements budget for looked after children.
- £86,000 to Property from Education in respect of school planning and buildings officers.
Inflation – the total figure for inflation related to general price increases and a 1% allowance for pay awards. These figures did not include schools’ inflation which amounted to £2.01m for pay and £269,000 for prices.
Committed Growth – this totalled £386,000 and related to £263,000 for the Minimum Funding Commitment for schools and £69,000 related to the cost of borrowing for the LGBI 21st Century Schools initiative.
The report highlighted that there would be difficulties in maintaining the quality and quantity of services in the future without exploring opportunities for collaboration and alternative forms of service delivery. The Council had already commenced a programme of reshaping and transforming services which had been approved by the Cabinet on 11th August 2014.
Scrutiny Committees were being asked to review the level of cost pressures with a view to suggesting ways in which these could be managed downwards and / or mitigated. Any recommendations were to be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) as the lead Committee by no later than 16th December 2014.
The General Fund Reserve as at 31st March 2015 was projected to stand at £11.46m. As detailed in the latest MTPF and as approved by Council on 29th September 2014, the 2015/16 base budget included the use of £2.5m from the General Fund Reserve and there would be a further use of £1.5m in 2016/17. The Section 151 Officer currently believed that the minimum balance on the General Fund Reserve should be no less than £7m. This was considered sufficient to cover unforeseen expenditure whilst, in the short term, maintaining a working balance. Unforeseen expenditure could be substantial and several instances could occur in a year. Whilst there was no set requirement for the minimum level for the General Reserve, some commentators used 5% of the net budget as a guide. For the Vale this was about £10.7m. However, in view of the prudent approach the Council took with regard to specific reserves, £7m was considered a reasonable minimum.
As part of the usual Budget process, an examination of the level of reserves was undertaken to ascertain their adequacy and strategy for use. A view to their level (i.e. whether the amount held in the fund was sufficient to requirements) and purpose (i.e. whether the need to hold the fund was still relevant) had been taken. The requirement for each specific reserve had also been considered in light of the Council's priorities and it had been deemed necessary to move funding from lower priority areas to higher priority areas. As a result, it had been proposed that £3.5m of specific reserves were unearmarked and transferred to the Schools Investment Strategy Reserve to allow for the continued investment in school buildings and their development. Appendix 5 to the report set out the Committee's actual reserves as at 31st March 2014 and showed the estimated reserves balance for each year up to 31st March 2018. The use of all reserves would be reviewed further, by the BWG, as part of the final budget setting process.
A Committee Member queried as to what was going to have an effect upon the school budget. In response the Cabinet Member advised that a debate was still ongoing and that the cost pressures were still unclear. A meeting for January was planned to discuss this information and it was hoped that an indicative statement could be made following the meeting. Further to this, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources informed the Committee that as part of this budget process, a number of cost pressures had been set out and she advised that the level of funding provided was above the minimum expected spend advised by the Welsh Government.
In reference to the cost pressures highlighted within the report, a Committee Member stated that there really were not any alternative choices available and it would be difficult to redraw the budget provision at this point. He queried as to whether there were any thoughts around this of the Director of Learning and Skills. In response the Committee was advised that the Member’s observations were correct and that the cost pressures were substantial. The Committee noted that in respect of placements for children looked after by the Authority, there may be some opportunity to achieve budget savings through carefully planned and thought out decisions which have been included in the savings proposals.
In reference to the proposed savings in respect of the Library Service, Members were advised that it was not at present possible to determine the cost of any HR payments arising from the Library Review.
The Chairman commented that one area of concern that regularly got mentioned by constituents was around the effect on the ability of the Council to attract volunteers into the Library Service. In response the Director of Learning and Skills advised that 80% of library funding was still in place. Following the review of the Library Service, 11 recommendations were in the process of being implemented and that these would contribute to the level of future savings. Three proposals were under consultation and, if agreed upon, these would be enacted during the 2016/17 financial year. The Council had deliberately set upon a phased approach to remodelling service delivery in order to implement changes in a fair and equitable way. She stated that there was still time for further amendments to be made to the proposed changes.
Further to this query, Members were advised to note that the Council was currently engaging in a reshaping of services exercise across all Council services and that the review of the Library Service was one of the first areas to be considered. Therefore debates of this kind would be commonplace as services were being remodelled.
At this point the Cabinet Member reiterated to Committee the Council’s use of reserves in order to finance the 21st Century Schools programme. He referred to the proper use of reserves and the need for sustainability of budgets over the long term period. With reference to consultation in respect of the Library Review, he advised that this would end this month and that the report on the changes would be presented to Cabinet. He stated that this Administration wanted a sustainable library service and he made reference to other Local Authorities that had simply chosen to cease providing a library service and that this was something that this Council had chosen not to do.
A Committee Member commented that it was a concern that overspends in other service areas mitigated savings achieved in other Directorates. In response, the Cabinet Member advised that they could not comment upon cost pressures in other Directorates and stated that the Learning and Skills Directorate should have a balanced budget by the end of the financial year.
Having considered the report it was subsequently
(1) T H A T amended budget for 2014/15 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.
(2) T H A T the initial Revenue Budget proposals for 2015/16 be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In acknowledgement of the Committee’s responsibility for managing the budget.
(2) Having regard to the budget constraints facing the Authority.
671 INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2015/16 (DLS) –
Members were provided with an update on the progress of the Capital Programme for 2014/15 and the initial capital proposals for 2015/16 were submitted for consultation.
Appendix A to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme for 2014/15 as at 30th September 2014. For the Directorate the report highlighted a number of issues as detailed below:
Fire Precaution Works - Additional works on Bryn Hafren acoustic ceilings had been required urgently for Health and Safety reasons and had caused this budget to be approximately £6,000 overspent. It had been requested that a virement of £6,000 be made from the Fairfield Replacement Flat Roof budget, which had a budget of £260,000 and was expected to outturn at £254,000.
Bryn Hafren Replacement Boiler – The projected outturn on this budget was £46,000 against a budget of £27,000, it had been requested that a virement of £12,000 be made from the Barry Comprehensive Replacement Boiler scheme and a further virement of £7,000 be made from the Ysgol St Curig Re-roofing and replacing defective timbers scheme.
The 21st Century Schools Investment Strategy included amendments to the following schemes:
· Ysgol Nant Talwg - £7,000 had been requested to be brought forward from 2015/16 to 2014/15 and to increase the overall scheme budget by £2,000 in 2014/15, to be funded by an additional contribution from the School Investment Strategy Reserve.
· Ysgol Dewi Sant - The spend profile had been reviewed for the scheme and it had been requested for £700,000 to be carried from 2014/15 to 2015/16 and £35,000 be brought forward from 2016/17 to 2015/16.
· Gwaun Y Nant and Oakfield - The spend profile against the scheme had been reviewed and it had been requested that there be a reduction in the 2014/15 budget of £1.412m and to carry forward this sum to 2015/16. It had also been requested that £398,000 be brought forward from 2016/17 to 2015/16. An adjustment to reduce the remaining budget in 2016/17 by £55,000 to £47,000 was required to correct the overall budget figure.
· Llantwit Learning Community (LLC) – The overall budget for this scheme had been requested to be reduced to £19.750m following Welsh Government approval of the amended Strategic Outline Case (SOC). The scheme had been reprofiled and it had also been requested to bring forward £474,000 into 2014/15 in line with the financial profile to be submitted to Welsh Government as part of the Full Business Case (FBC).
Additional Capital Schemes – The following schemes totalling £800,000 were included in the 2014/15 Capital Programme to be funded from an additional revenue contribution.
· Llandough Playground £20,000
· Bro Morgannwg Flat Roof £80,000
· Llangan £350,000( now to be Romilly Primary under the Managing Director’s use of emergency powers)
· Llanfair Demountable £350,000.
Variance between Actual Spend to date and Profiled Spend
Cabinet had previously agreed that further information would be provided where schemes had a value of over £500,000 and showed a variance of 20% or more between actual spend and the profile. The following schemes met this criteria:-
· Ysgol Dewi Sant – a budget amendment had been requested, reducing planned expenditure in 2014/15 by £700,000.
· Gwaun Y Nant and Oakfield - A budget amendment had been requested, reducing planned expenditure in 2014/15 by £1.412m.
Welsh Government had announced the provisional 2015/16 General capital Funding on 8th October 2014, and for 2016/17 the capital settlement represented a £62,000 decrease on the 2014/15 Final Settlement which equated to a 1% cut. The Council had not been advised of the level of funding beyond 2015/16, therefore, in line with the approach adopted in the MTFP, the proposals assumed a reduction of 10% for each year of the programme from 2016/17, and had been reflected in the proposed Capital Programme 2015/16 to 2019/20.
In presenting the report Committee was advised that new capital bids had been invited for return by 30th September 2014, with the number of bids received being low and (1 from Social Services, 11 from Visible Services and 6 from Development Services). Departments had been requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission. There had been none for the Lifelong Learning Department.
The 21st Century Schools programme was a Welsh Government funding initiative for investment in schools and the first tranche of schemes under Band A of the funding had been submitted prior to November 2011. Band A schemes had run between 2013/14 and 2018/19, with Band B schemes expected to commence in 2019/20.
The schemes included under Band A submission for construction between 2013/14 and 2018/19 were: Ysgol Nant Talwg, Ysgol Dewi Sant, Ysgol Gwaun Y Nant and Oakfield and also at Colcot and Llantwit Learning Community.
In April 2014, Welsh Government notified the Council that some of the funding for Band A of the 21st Century Schools Programme would be in the form of unsupported borrowing instead of a revenue grant. The Council would be expected to borrow; however, Welsh Government would provide revenue funding to cover the cost of the loan. In 2014/15 this would be via a specific grant and from 2015/16 the funding would be distributed through the Revenue Support Grant. This had no impact on the value of the Capital Programme, only the way in which it was funded. The table below shows the sums to be borrowed between 2014/15 and 2016/17 and the corresponding borrowing costs provided by Welsh Government:
Loan Charges Funded by WG
In September 2014 the Vale of Glamorgan Council received notification from Welsh Government that the funding envelope for 21st Century Schools had increased from £20.960m to £29.8985m. The increase approved represented an increased contribution of £3.017m to £13.4965m from the Welsh Government. This increase represented additional funding required to allow the proposed Llantwit Learning Community project to proceed.
Following discussion with Welsh Government, it was proposed that the funding split for the Colcot scheme and Llantwit Learning Community be amended, increasing the Vale of Glamorgan Council contribution by £250,000 and reducing the Welsh Government contribution to £0,000 for the Colcot scheme. A corresponding adjustment against the Llantwit Learning Community was proposed to increase the Welsh Government contribution by £250,000 and reduce the contribution made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council by £250,000. This amendment was being made because the 21st Century Schools Grant required the schemes to meet BREEAM (British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) standards and this was not considered to be cost effective for the size of the Colcot scheme.
There is also an additional £3.2m between 2015/16 and 2017/18 over and above the £600,000 already allocated in 2014/15 Capital Programme to support works across 22 Victorian Schools to address the existing issues with lath and plaster and masonry deterioration. Work was currently being carried out by the Council’s Property Section to assess the situation and a full report would be brought to Cabinet with a strategy to address these problems.
In addition, following an analysis of asset renewal spend on schools in recent years, it had been noted that actual required funding was around £1m each year rather than the £600,000 budgeted. The annual allocation had therefore been increased to £1m per annum from 2016/17. This additional contribution would be funded from the School Investment Strategy reserve. A further £500,000 had also been included in the 2015/16 Capital Programme to be used to resite and renew the modular building used for the current Ysgol Dewi Sant. This additional contribution would be funded from the School Investment Strategy reserve.
Band B Funding under the 21st Century Schools Programme was due to start in 2019/20 and assumed that the Council schemes would not commence until 2020/21 as the schemes had not yet been approved. The Council would need to consider what schemes were likely to be included in the Band B School Investment Programme to address growing pressures within Vale of Glamorgan schools. These pressures included but were not limited to the following:
· Consideration of a possible Co-education school at Secondary level in Barry.
· Increase in demand for Welsh Medium places at Primary and Secondary level across Penarth, Barry and Rural Vale Clusters.
· Increase in demand for English Medium places in the Penarth area.
· Increase in demand for English and Welsh Medium places as a result of existing development schemes and new schemes proposed in the Local Development Plan.
· The need to amalgamate and federate schools to strengthen performance, foster cohesion and support among schools and release efficiencies
The projected cost of schemes under Band B was reported as £38m, which it was assumed would be funded as follows: £19m Welsh Government Grant contribution at 50%, £4.9m General Capital Funding, £6.7m Capital Receipts, £0.7m School Investment Strategy reserve, £6.7m s106 Contributions.
In order to fund the additional contributions for Asset Renewal, Band B schemes and Victorian Schools strategy, it was proposed that the School Investment Strategy Reserve be increased by £3.5m identified from unearmarking other specific reserves.
All Scrutiny Committees were being requested to refer any recommendations to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) as the lead Committee, with responses being made no later than 16th December 2014. The Cabinet’s Final Capital Programme proposals would be considered by Council on 4th March 2015.
In reference to the use of demountable facilities in Llangan and Llanfair, the Committee was advised that following feasibility work the service had looked at the school premises at Llangan and Llanfair. Following this an urgent situation had arisen at Romilly Primary School, resulting in the need to replace part of the school roof. Therefore, the decision had been taken to situate a demountable at Romilly as opposed to Llangan. A Committee Member questioned as to what effect this decision would have upon the capacity at Llanfair. In response the Committee was advised that this would have very little impact as the extra space would have only provided an increase of two or three extra places.
The Chairman enquired whether a Cabinet report of the review of the Victorian School project be presented before the Committee. Members were informed that in essence, the review was looking at the ceilings, stonework and some other roof work for 22 Victorian era schools within the Vale of Glamorgan. Current surveys being undertaken would help to pre-empt any issues and this would help guide and inform the service priorities. It was agreed that the report would be referred to the Scrutiny Committee once approved by Cabinet.
Having considered the report and the appendices, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the 2015/16 initial capital budget proposals be noted.
(2) T H A T the changes to the 2014/15 Capital Programme as outlined below be noted:
· Fire Precaution Works - A virement of funding to the scheme of £6,000 from the budget for Fairfield Replacement Flat Roof;
· Bryn Hafren Replacement Boiler - A virement of £12,000 from Barry Comprehensive Replacement Boiler and a further virement of £7,000 from Ysgol St. Curig Re-roofing and replacing defective timbers.
(3) T H A T the following capital schemes included in the 2014/15 Capital Programme be funded from an increased revenue contribution be noted :
· Llandough Playground - £20,000
· Bro Morgannwg Flat Roof - £80,000.
(4) T H A T the use of article 13.09 of the Council’s Constitution to increase the 2014/15 Capital Programme for the following capital schemes to be funded from an increased revenue contribution in 2014/15 to enable officers to carry out works within the current financial year be noted:
· Romilly Demountable - £350,000
· Llanfair Demountable - £350,000.
(5) T H A T the following changes to the 2014/15 and 2015/16 Capital Programme that require Council approval be noted:
· Ysgol Nant Talwg - Increase the 2014/15 budget by £9,000 to £1.603m. Bring forward £7,000 from 2015/16 to 2014/15 and increase the overall scheme budget by £2,000 in 2014/15, to be funded by an additional contribution from the School Investment Strategy reserve.
· Ysgol Dewi Sant - Reduce the 2014/15 budget by £700,000 to £1.145m and carry forward this sum to 2015/16.
· Ysgol Gwaun Y Nant and Oakfield - Reduce planned spend in 2014/15 by £1.412m and carry forward this sum to 2015/16.
· Llantwit Learning Community (LLC) - Reduce the overall budget figure to £19.750m and bring forward £474,000 to 2014/15, in line with the financial profile to be submitted to Welsh Government as part of the Full Business Case (FBC).
(6) T H A T the increased requirement of £2.638m for unsupported borrowing required between 2014/15 and 2016/17 as a result of the Local Government Borrowing Initiative for 21st Century Schools that will also require Council approval be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To allow full consultation on the future Capital Programme.
(2&3) To ensure that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2014/15 Capital Programme, relevant to this Scrutiny Committee.
(4) To ensure that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2014/15 Capital Programme pursuant to article 13.09 of the Council’s Constitution.
(5) To ensure that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2014/15 and future years’ Capital Programme.
(6) To ensure that Members are aware of the need for increased unsupported borrowing in the Capital Programme.
672 WELSH PUBLIC LIBRARY STANDARDS ASSESSMENT 2013/14 (DLS) –
Public Library Standards had been introduced by Welsh Government in September 2001 as a common performance assessment framework for public library services in Wales. The purpose of the Standards was to provide information on the performance of public library services across Wales, drive improvements in performance and to identify the underlying factors affecting those performances. Standards are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle and the Annual Report submitted for 2013/14 was the third and final return under the Fourth Framework which operated from April 2011 to March 2014. A Fifth Framework had been developed to operate from April 2014, and would be reported on for the first time in July 2015.
The report outlined that there were nine Standards in the Fourth Framework which measured performance in key aspects of service to residents in the Vale, with a set of eight Performance Indicators included.
The Annual Return for 2013-14 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and had been completed using a template provided by Welsh Government which required sufficient information to enable the Assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on performance.
In presenting the report the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that the Assessment from the Welsh Government on the Library and Information Service’s performance for 2013-14 was to be found at Appendix 2 to the report. The report identified that the Authority had achieved six out of the nine Standards and had partly achieved two others, Members being informed that this was the same number that had been achieved in the previous two years. For Wales as a whole, the average number in the previous two years had been six, but in the final year of the Framework this had increased to 6.5. It was noted that as a result the Vale therefore had achieved slightly under the average, in comparison the highest number of Standards achieved across Wales had been nine and the lowest had been four.
However, it was further report that during 2013-14 the Library Service had achieved a seventh Standard for the first time by providing WiFi at Llantwit Major and Dinas Powys libraries. However, in contrast a Standard which had previously been achieved on the supply of requested materials, had not been met due to temporary capacity and system issues in the key team which ordered and supplied requested books. The issues had now been corrected by the use of a credit card to order reserved books quickly and systems put in place to ensure customers received their reserved books promptly.
Paragraph 8 of the report stated that it was unfortunate that gaining a Standard and losing a Standard meant that the Library Service, if judged on the number of Standards only, suggested that no overall changes made in the final year of the Framework. The Standards that had been partly achieved were the standards for staffing and space and buildings.
In referring to the Standard for professionally qualified staff, this required that 23% of library posts be professional posts with a formal qualification in library and information studies. For the Vale only 20% of posts and their staff held such a qualification. With regard to space and buildings, the requirement for space stated that the service should provide 27m² of library space per 1,000 residents. The Vale currently provided 24.2m² with this Standard only being able to be achieved with significant capital investment for library extensions or remodelling. The second aspect of this Standard which the Library Service did not also meet was the requirement to have disability audits of all libraries during the three year period. Property Services had not been able to schedule this work during the last two years of the Framework but had given an undertaking to do so in the next financial year.
The report also commented on the eight Performance Indicators and noted â€œmarginal changesâ€ in many Indicators with encouraging performance in financial indicators. Performance in relation to a number of Welsh Public Library Performance Indicators had increased over the previous year, including a 3% increase in ICT use. However, the percentage in the Vale was lower than the Welsh average but this was accounted for by the Vale having a greater availability of PCs, which in turn lowered the percentage use of available time.
In referring to the number of physical visits to libraries and the number of items issued, although the report stated this had declined over the previous year, it was still considered that this remained healthy and reflected the wide range of activities and resources in libraries and the continued good choice of lending materials. The number of virtual visitors had also increased as had the numbers attending library events and activities and these figures had offset any declines to put total visits above the Welsh average. However, the report acknowledged that the Annual Report at Appendix 2 cited that progress in the Vale over the three years term of the Fourth Framework was â€œlimitedâ€.
A Committee Member proposed that the Scrutiny Committee offer its thanks to the staff within the Library Service and moved the recommendation be passed to Cabinet for approval. The Chairman endorsed the Member’s views and stated that the Library Service was very good and that the staff were highly dedicated.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the Annual Return 2013-14 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 and the report referred to Cabinet for consideration.
(3) T H A T the Library and Information Service be thanked for their performance.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2013-14.
(2) To keep Members informed of performance and progress and Cabinet’s consideration.
(3) In order to offer the Committee’s thanks to the staff within the Library and Information Service.
673 QUARTER 2 LEARNING AND SKILLS PERFORMANCE REPORT 2014-15 (DLS) –
The performance results for Quarter 2, 1st July to 30th September 2014, were presented to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration. The report highlighted that Service Plans were designed to focus on the achievement of key objectives within each Directorate which, in turn, contributed towards the achievement of identified outcomes in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2014-15. Quarterly performance reports had been developed to reflect the Service Plans and had been designed to ensure that the Council reported performance in the context of progress against its objectives.
The Director informed Members that overall the Learning and Skills Directorate was on track to achieve its objectives contributing to its service outcomes, with 96% (95) of actions currently either completed or on track to be completed. Of the 99 actions within the Service Plan, three had slipped and one had been scheduled for later in the year. In referring to Corporate Plan actions, there were 40 within the Service, 39 which were either on track or had been completed, one had slipped and of the 21 actions relating to Improvement Objectives, 20 were either completed or on track for completion, 1 having slipped. All eight Outcome Agreement actions for the service were either completed or on track to be completed and there were 13 measures which related to the Outcome Agreement of which four were reported quarterly and of these, two had met or exceeded target and one had missed target by more than 10%. A RAG status was not applicable to one Indicator.
Of the 57 Performance Indicators (PIs), 14 had met or exceeded target, four were within 10% of target, eight had missed target by more than 10% and a RAG status was not applicable for one Indicator. No results were available for 30 PIs, which would be reported later during the year.
The indicators that had missed target related to:
· LS/M029 - Number of hits on the library website. The Council had over a week of IT downtime across libraries during Quarter 2 and calculated that this would have lost 1,000+ logins to the website, plus an additional two weeks without IT access at Llantwit Major. Interest in libraries during the consultation period it was considered should drive more people to visit the website and the Service would capitalise on this by giving prominence to its most attractive offers.
· LS/M022a and LS/M022b - The percentage of pupils in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools who had school meals. A performance of 37.45% was achieved against a target of 45% for primary and 27.34% against a target of 38.00% for secondary. For both Indicators, the Quarter took into account the one day strike in July, school trips, residential trips, parents taking children out of school for family holidays and staggered intake of new pupils into Reception.
· LS/M024a and LS/M024b - The percentage take up of Free School Meals (FSM) in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools. A performance of 70.32% was achieved against a target of 79% for primary and 55.58% against a target of 64% for secondary. For both indicators, the Quarter took into account the one day strike in July, school trips, residential trips, parents taking children out of school for family holidays and staggered intake of new pupils into Reception. Some families also applied for FSM but did not send their children in for the meal it being noted that this benefit accesses other benefits they felt were more valid. There was also still the stigma surrounding school meals despite the continued information to parents advising of the process.
· EDU010b - The percentage of school days lost due to fixed-term exclusions during the academic year, in secondary schools. A performance of 0.11% was reported against a target of 0.05%. Action was being taken to reduce this figure.
· LS/M015b - The percentage of unauthorised absence in secondary schools. A performance of 1% was achieved against a target of 0.90%. .
· LS/M007- Percentage of the youth population aged 11-25 years in the Vale of Glamorgan who make contact with the Youth Service during the year. A performance of 24.26% was reported against a target of 27%.
· OA2 - The number of year 12/13 pupils known not to be in education, training or work-based learning (NEET). This figure was at its highest during Quarter 2 as this was when young people were most likely to drop out of provision following enrolment in education, training or work-based learning at the start of the academic year. 212 year 12/13 pupils were known to be NEET against a quarterly target of 110.
In terms of notable performance, two major capital projects had been successfully completed during the quarter including, the Penarth Learning Community [(LS/A082 (CP/LS1)] providing high quality new accommodation for St. Cyres Comprehensive School and for the new Ysgol Y Deri (replacing Ashgrove, Ysgol Erwir Delyn and Ysgol Maes Dyfan special schools) and the new build 210 place building for the Welsh-medium primary school for Ysgol Nant Talwg, Barry [LS/A081 (CP/LS1)]. Both projects were delivered on time and on budget.
School attendance figures for both primary and secondary schools showed a marked improvement compared with previous years reflecting the high priority given to attendance including the roll-out of the regional Callio strategy. Attendance had improved across Wales but nevertheless both primary and secondary attendance in the Vale was now fourth in Wales.
Slippage was reported in a number of actions as follows:
· Whilst work continued to improve the quality of leadership and management in schools overall, [LS/A125 (PIAP 1.6)] progress had marginally slipped due to inspections outcomes in two schools both highlighting a challenge in leadership. Both were receiving additional support via the LA support plan and via the CSC JES to address the issues raised.
· Work to develop proposals for the Penarth cluster of schools would resume following the appointment of the School Organisation Manager, who was due to take up post on 10th November 2014 [LA/A141].
· Work was no longer being progressed by the CSC to develop and introduce a consortium 'Pupil Tracking’ model into secondary schools. Tracking arrangements were in place in schools. [LS/A075 (CP/LS5) IO7].
The detailed report of the Directorate’s overall performance was provided at Appendix 1 to the report.
In referring to the improvement in school attendance, the Director of Learning and Skills advised the Committee that the Vale of Glamorgan was currently ranked fourth for primary schools and also fourth for secondary schools. While improvements highlighted may seem small, a 1% increase had resulted in approximately 30,000 extra pupil days being added.
A Committee Member queried whether officers were able to provide the Welsh average as a comparison to the Vale of Glamorgan’s performance. Members were advised that this information would be relayed to Members at a later point. [2013/14 Welsh averages: primary 94.8%, secondary 93.6%.]
The Chairman commented that one area of particular concern was in relation to the rate of fixed term exclusions and he queried as to what was currently being undertaken to improve the Council’s performance. In response, the Director of Learning and Skills advised that work was currently ongoing with specified schools and that data indicating the impact of these measures would be presented next quarter.
(1) T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions taken to address service underperformance be noted.
(2) T H A T progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2014-15 be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.
(2) To consider the Quarter 2 Learning and Skills performance results as at 30th September 2014 in order to identify service areas for improvement.