For the Select Committee to scrutinise the revenue savings proposals for Children’s Services that have been developed as part of the Savings Programme to 2023.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children’s Services and Director of Corporate Operations regarding the detailed savings proposals for the Children’s Services Department that had been developed as part of the Savings Programme to 2023 (SP2023) Programme (Item 7 in the Minute Book).
Officers led Members through the accompanying presentation and it was reported that the last government spending review was for one year as a result of economic and fiscal uncertainty due to Covid. Forecasting indicated that government funding would not fully meet the financial pressures the County Council faced, therefore there would be a funding gap in April 2023 and the Council would need to make savings of £80 million to balance the budget. This was in addition to £45 million in savings from previous transformation programmes that were yet to be delivered.
It was noted that the savings requirement for the Children’s Services Department under this SP23 savings programme was £21.3 million. Officers highlighted the pie chart on page 8 of the presentation slides which detailed the breakdown of spending for the 2021/22 children’s services budget, and the pie chart on page 9 detailed the proposed SP23 savings in these areas.
An overarching ‘balancing the budget’ consultation had been undertaken in the summer of 2021 and further consultation would be undertaken where appropriate on the savings workstreams which were explained in detail to the Committee. The risks and challenges of the savings proposals were also highlighted, as well as the equality impacts.
In response to questions, Members heard:
· That the department has considered the savings proposals against the key principles adhered to by the department as set out at presentation slide 6 and paragraph 23 of the decision report.
· That there was more spending now in the department than in 2010 because of demand and price, and work was ongoing by the County Council Network to examine factors for increase in spend, which was primarily due to the increased unit cost per child.
· That in relation to the proposed savings for the Youth Offending Service by way of reduced staffing levels, it was heard that there was good evidence that early intervention was now reducing youth crime, resulting in reducing caseloads and demand on the service.
· That the biggest challenge to the department was unknown risks.
· That in relation to foster care, there was a need to recruit new foster carers, and to look at the support that foster carers are offered, as well as competition with the private sector in this area.
· That short break activities would be aligned with the holiday activity and food programme to ensure efficient use of public funds and reduce duplication.
The Chairman moved to debate where it was heard that there was uncertainty as to what the impact of the savings would be, and it would not be easy to measure deliverability of these. The unknown as to the long term cost of Covid was also highlighted.
The Chairman put the recommendation to the vote and confirmed that the co-opted members were not eligible to vote on this matter. The vote was carried as follows:
The Children and Young People Select Committee considered the detailed
savings proposals and:
Supported the recommendations being proposed to the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services in section 2 of the report. (To approve the
submission of the proposed savings options for Children’s Services contained in the report and Appendix 1 to the Cabinet.