Venue: Virtual Meeting/Remote - Please use links on the agenda front sheet to joint the virtual meeting
WELCOME AND APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Councillor Birsen Demirel (Chair) welcomed everyone to the meeting and invited Panel Members to introduce themselves.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Mahym Bedekova and Councillor Yasemin Brett
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Members of the Scrutiny Panel are invited to identify any disclosable pecuniary, other pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests relevant to items on the agenda.
Noted that there were no declarations of interest in respect of any item listed on the agenda.
Members are asked to confirm the minutes of the previous Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 6 January 2021.
AGREED, that the minutes of the previous Scrutiny Panel meeting held on the 6 January 2021 be confirmed as a correct record.
To receive for discussion the attached report and presentation.
Councillor Birsen Demirel (Chair) invited Councillor Mary Maguire (Cabinet Member for Finance and Procurement) to introduce the report.
Councillor Maguire highlighted that the panel had received a comprehensive slide pack. The key issues were the adequacy of the Schools grant and the resulting overspend that is recorded. The biggest area of overspend is in the High Needs Block.
As the report details this block funds pupils with special needs from birth up to the age of 25 who have Education Health & Care Plans (EHCP) and require additional support. The regulation of funds do not allow movement between the 4 blocks without specific approval.
The SEND reforms and the changing needs of children and young people in Enfield have created acute financial pressures particularly for this HNB. An example of this is the number of children with EHCP’s has risen from 1150 five years ago to 2230 a year ago. The Council has taken a number of steps to deal with the increasing pressure and demand such as increasing SEND provision in the borough and increased support for early intervention.
Another area of concern is in the Schools Block there is a prescribed funding formula for individual schools and there is little flexibility for the local authority to target funding where there is a particular need. The total funding provided by the government each yeas reflects the changes in pupil numbers only. At the end of last year 16 of Enfield’s schools were in overall deficit. The figures are constantly under review and support is given to schools to assist them dealing with their deficits.
Sangeeta Brown, Resources Development Manager outlined in further detail the information set out in the report pack
1. It was clarified that in terms of the council’s relationship with schools, the Council has a responsibility in terms of oversight for maintained schools both financially and educationally. Therefore, the Council has to have an overview of the balances that are held by schools. The Scheme for Financing for Schools stipulates how these balances are treated.
2. The key concern for the Council is those schools reporting a deficit balance. Schools are required to work to a balanced position in terms of their budgets. When there is a deficit balance the risk to the Council is that if the school have a poor Ofsted judgement and is required to academize and be sponsored for that academisation, than the deficit will remain with the Council and the Council will have to fund the deficit that is being reported by the school.
3. This is a major risk and the Council is working with the schools to reduce the level of deficits.
4. Over the past year a process has been set up for supporting schools in deficit. The schools have been asked to provide a deficit recovery plan.
5. An external consultant has been engaged to carry out reviews of four schools to assess the deficit recovery plan against what is happening operationally within the schools. The findings ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To receive for discussion the attached report and presentation.
Neil Goddard, Head of Budget Challenge introduced the report.
1. Funding received from grant awards is important in delivering the Council’s financial strategy and overall objectives.
2. The report focuses on the council’s approach to actively seeking out opportunities to bid for additional grants that become available.
3. Officers from across departments keep up to date by horizon scanning, being part of networks helping to identify opportunities. The Council has also signed up to a grant finder system allowance increased awareness of grant opportunities.
4. Many grants that are bid for require collaboration across teams to produce the bid, this can have a significant impact on officers’ capacity and resources.
5. Where possible service leads will discuss proposals with awarding bodies in advance, to increase success and ensure that the bid is in line with awarding bodies objectives to help ensure that the officers are making the best use of resources.
6. Appendix A of the report details the volume and the scope of successful bids since January 2020. Some key successes are highlighted in paragraph 11 of the report.
7. The governance arrangements vary depending on the grant, paragraph 19 details the more general governance arrangements that apply for grants.
8. The Panel is asked to note the approach and success in the grants that have been awarded.
Comments, queries and questions:
· Are the Council doing as much as councils to get grants? It was confirmed that the council has not been able to benchmark our success against other councils. The report shows that the Council’s approach has been relatively successful in getting grants
· How much of the grants that are available through Covid has the Council been successful in getting? Officers confirmed that some have been through direct grant awards and some have been bid for. An example was provided of an award for Rough sleepers.
· Is there sufficient resource and support to be able to apply for grants? In bidding for the grants, the council tries to make use of the resources available. There are not specific resources or posts to actively seek grants, this is undertaken within the service resources. Bids take time and resources and often need a collaborative approach. The success is evident by the list of grants on the report. An advantage of officers applying is that the officer knows the core reason for the grant, they understand the complexities of what they are trying to deliver.
· Regarding the Rough sleeper’s initiative is this an area for further bidding to carry on what has been put in place? Officers confirmed that Enfield received the highest allocation for this from the GLA in London. Enfield will continue to actively bid for funding on this. This will continue to be an area of focus. The Council has been successful in achieving further funding for 2021/22.
Officers were thanks for their presentation and their comprehensive report
Members will receive a briefing on the CIPFA Financial Management Code.
Melissa Williamson, Transformation Finance Manager introduced the report.
1. The report provides an overview of the CIPFA Management Code and the approach that Enfield is taking.
2. The CIPFA code was published in October 2019 which is intended to support good practice in financial management and also demonstrates financial sustainability.
3. It is a principle-based approach and there are 6 key principles which are translated into a series of standards.
4. The first full year of compliance is 2021/22.
5. Paragraph 10 details the six underlying principles of the code.
6. Paragraph 11 provides further details for each of the standards.
7. It is for the individual authorities to determine whether they meet each of the standards and provide evidence that they have reviewed arrangements against the standards and taken any necessary actions.
8. Due to the Covid pressures being faced CIPFA has allowed a more flexible and proportionate approach in the first year of compliance.
9. Enfield is taking a two-stage approach with a light touch internal assessment being undertaken between May and July. Stage 2 of the process is an external independent assessment undertaken by CIPFA in late September and early Autumn.
10. The Panel is asked to note the initial report and the approach for the first year of implementation. The Panel could be provided with update reports throughout the process.
Comments, queries and questions:
· Is there going to be a consultation on CIPFA guidance in terms of borrowing and if so, would this have any impact on the council’s borrowing plans? Officers advised that a report went to the General Purposes Committee last week on interest risk to the Council. There was a reference to the consultation on the prudential code for borrowing which closes on the 12 April. The Council will be responding to this consultation. To put this in context this consultation is looking at potential new indicators to include in the Treasury Report in the future. It will also look at testing affordability and build on commercial investing and the fact the Council’s can no longer borrow from the PWLB for build purposes. This could be reported back to the Panel when the consultation ends.
· On affordability point what will this take in? Officers advised that there is already a Prudential code that the Council follow and take a risk-based approach, this builds on that programme with the 10-year Treasury Strategy. It is not expected that the code will significantly alter the Council’s current approach but will add increasing transparency. It is important to keep a watching eye on position, including taking professional advice, making sure the risks are considered. Every year the 10-year strategy and programme are agreed one year at a time so can react to situations as they arise.
The Chair thanked officers for their report. It was suggested that an update on this item be included in the work programme in the Autumn.
The Panel’s terms of reference include the consideration of the quarterly monitoring reports provided by the Council, which are considered by Cabinet and circulated to all Members. Since the previous meeting of the Panel in January, the following quarterly reports have been received by the Cabinet and are attached to this agenda for ease of reference and for noting as appropriate:
1. Quarterly Revenue Monitoring 2020/2021 Quarter 3 – KD 5203 – Cabinet – 3 February 2021
2. Capital Programme Monitor Period 8 (November 2020) – KD 5202 – Cabinet – 3 February 2021
3. Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Revenue and Capital Monitor Period 8 (December 2020) – KD 5250 – Cabinet – 3 February 2021
4. Quarterly Corporate Performance Report (Quarter 2 – 2020/2021) – Non key – Cabinet – 3 February 2021
The Panel may wish to raise any issues arising from the reports on which they require further explanation/information at a future meeting, as appropriate.
Councillor Birsen Demirel (Chair) reminded Members that the Panel’s terms of reference included the consideration of the quarterly monitoring reports provided by the Council, which were considered by the Cabinet.
1. That since the previous meeting of the Panel in January, the following quarterly monitoring reports had been received by the Cabinet:
To note the completion of the Panel’s agreed work programme for 2020/21.
The Panel noted completion of their work programme.
DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
To note that this is the last scheduled meeting of the Panel in the current municipal year. The meeting dates for the new municipal year 2021/22 will be agreed and circulated in due course with the Council’s calendar of meetings for 2021/22.
It was noted that future meeting dates will be agreed and circulated in due course.
The Chair thanked all officers and Panel members for contributions and participations in discussions.