Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall - County Hall. View directions
Contact: Elizabeth Patterson
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from County Councillors G Breeze, E Roderick, G Thomas, Portfolio Holder M Alexander, C Turner (Chief Executive and Director of Education) and Dr A Clark (Head of Schools Service)
E Towns (Senior Challenge Advisor), J Spraggon (Finance Business Partner), S Caple (Deputy Head of Financial Services), K Watts (Customer Services Manager) and E Patterson (Scrutiny Officer)
Declarations of interest
To receive declarations of interest from Members.
Declarations of interest were received from County Councillors S Davies, D Jones and B Davies and Parent Governor Representative A Davies as School Governors whose schools have or may have received grant income this financial year.
Declarations of Party Whip
To receive disclosures of prohibited party whips which a Member has been given in relation to the meeting in accordance with Section 78(3) of the Local Government Measure 2011.
(NB: Members are reminded that under Section 78 Members having been given a prohibited party whip cannot vote on a matter before the Committee.)
No declarations of party whips were received.
To consider the outturn report for the Schools Service.
The Finance Business Manager introduced the paper outlining the Schools Service projected outturn at 31 March 2020 as at Quarter 1 (30th June 2019).
The Schools Service is projecting at £669k overspend at year end the main reasons for which are a series of unachieved savings. The Finance team are working closely with the schools service to help the saving achieve the required savings.
The Schools service undertakes a range of work such as the 21st Century School programme, Post 16 review, school transport. There is a concern regarding the lack of join up and capacity of staff to support these programmes. The cuts are also concerning impacting on the capacity of schools service staff to support schools.
The Senior Challenge Advisor confirmed the reduced number of staff within the schools service is a concern, particularly in the area of school modernisation which is under capacity. The schools service is receiving support from the corporate transformation team in this area of work. The service knows what needs to be done to make the required savings and just needs capacity to be able to carry this out.
Where is the overspend funded from?
This is funded from corporate reserves, and other areas may be underspent which may assist in balancing the councils position overall. The Finance Team are working with the service to make the savings required.
Is the service confident the savings will be made?
Since the report was written a further £117k savings have been made (from additional money received from the Education Improvement Grant and some savings identified within the Freedom contract).
The report identified £250k of savings from within the ALN budget. Given the ALN budget is £5million is this realistic?
This is not specifically for a reduction in ALN provision but could be for example for the reduction of costs in expensive out of county placements or increased income.
What are the trends in this area? Members are hearing that other council departments have been slow in returning results in this area.
This information can be provided.
The Portfolio Holder noted that there would be a change in the way of reporting this information. Cabinet would be receiving a monthly report on savings delivered to date and how likely or otherwise it was that the remaining savings would be made.
The Deputy Head of Financial Services confirmed the intention of this paper was to demonstrate that savings are achieved throughout the year and without this information the position in the first part of the year looks bad but does improve as the year progresses.
Why does the paper state it in respect of ALN spend this is unpredictable? It should be possible to estimate these costs.
This is one of the issues affecting the forecast and is identified as a risk.
Why is the education budget subsidising child-care settings (under the Capital Grants section)?
This is specific grant funding from Welsh Government and is not subsidised by the authorities education budget. The child-care settings ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
To consider the annual report on Complaints, Compliments and Comments.
The Customer Services Manager presented the report ‘Schools Service, Complaints, Compliments and Comments’ (copy filed with signed minutes).
The report covered the period June 2018 to May 2019. Complaints are considered under a two stage process. Both stages are usually undertaken within the service area with the second stage being carried out by either a Senior Officer from within the service area, an independent Officer from another service area or an external investigator. Twenty three complaints were received of which 5 proceeded to Stage two of the process.
It is necessary to respond to complaints within 20 working days and 73% of complaints were responded to within this timescale.
Can the outcome of the complaints detailed in Table 2 be included for future reports.
This can be provided.
How does the service learn from complaints?
The Senior Challenge Advisor confirmed that he had acted as Investigating Officer in the past. Learning is shared with the Head of Service and Officer to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. A tracker is kept by the Head of Service.
What happens when complaints are not upheld and yet the complainant remains unsatisfied?
The next stage would be for the complainant to make a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The PSOW does not advise the Customer Services Department that a complaint has been received. Notification of a complaint received by the PSOW would be sent to the Monitoring Officer.
If 73% of complaints were responded to in time that means 27% weren’t. Can information be provided as to why these deadlines were missed.
The Customer Services Manager confirmed that her team did chase the service for responses when it was getting near a deadline and when any were outstanding. There is a Corporate Objective to respond to 100% of complaints within 20 days. The average time across the organisation is 79%.
To enable trends to be tracked can it be agreed that the year follows a standard time.
The timeframe would normally be April to March.
What opportunities are there for schools’ complaints to be appealed?
Governing Bodies have a two-stage process to consider complaints. The appeal of any complaints would be made to the Schools Service, not to the Customer Services Team.
Has there been any post inspection feedback?
Estyn have shared their preliminary findings with the Chief Executive, Head of Schools and nominee. The Leader, Portfolio Holder for Education and Scrutiny Chair will receive a briefing on 2nd August 2019 when purdah has finished.
Cllr B Davies left 3.50pm
There have been no compliments for this service. Is this unusual?
Far fewer compliments are received. The whole of the authority only received 185 compliments.
Resolved that future reports to contain:
1. Detail is provided on the which of the complaints detailed in Table 2 were upheld or not
2. Information from the Monitoring Officer regarding any complaints received by the PSOW
3. Information as to why complaints were responded to late and how late the response was
To receive a verbal update from the Chair of the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee.
All matters had been covered in other parts of the agenda.
Appointment to working groups
To appoint Members to the following joint working groups:
· School Deficit Budgets
A joint working group consisting of three members from learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee and three Members from Finance Panel to consider school deficit budgets
· Transformation/Major Change Projects
A joint working group consisting of three members from Economy, Rengeneration, Communitites and Governnance Scrutiny Committee, two members each from Health and Care Scrutiny Committee and Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee, one or two non-scrutiny Members and 1 Member from the Finance Panel. This group will look at transformation projects such as the North Powys Well-being Programme.
Resolved that the following Members be appointed to Working Groups:
1. School Deficit Budgets – Cllr P Roberts, Cllr S Davies, Vacancy
2. Transformation/Major Change Projects – Cllr P Roberts, Cllr D Jones, Cllr L Roberts
It was agreed to ask absent Members if they wished to take the vacancy on the School Deficit Budgets working group.
To receive an update on the ERW Joint Scrutiny Group from the scrutiny representatives from Powys.
· Report of meeting held on 3rd June 2019 by the Vice-Chair
· Update by Scrutiny Officer
The ERW Representatives Parent Governor A Davies and Cllr S Davies presented the report adding that they had been disappointed with the progress made despite the aspirations that had been outlined. Cllr S Davies had met with Estyn Inspectors who had visited ERW. The Inspectors are keeping a watch on ERW as it was behind the other regions in making improvements.
To receive the response to scrutiny observations on school budgets.
The response to the Schools Budgets observations was attached.
Members were disappointed with the response to recommendation 4 – the issue was with the decision to create a new school which showed a deficit position rather than with the school in their attempts to deal with the same.
The Senior Challenge Advisor confirmed the Formula Review Group met on 12th July 2019.
A provisional date has been set aside for 19th August 2019 in case any items require pre-Cabinet scrutiny for Cabinet in September 2019.
The next scheduled dates for this Committee include:
· 7th October 2019
· Standards (provisional)
· Inspection outcomes 2018-19
· Specialist Centre provision
· 18th November 2019
· ALN update
Any additional dates for scrutiny will be advised as soon as have been arranged.
The work programme outlined in the agenda was noted. Additional dates for a briefing on school data in September and the Estyn Inspection in October would be timetabled. Working Group meetings also needed to be timetabled.