The Committee considered reports of the Corporate Director of Resources, the first provided details of the outturn budget position at the end of quarter four 2021/2022 highlighting major variances in comparison with the budget for the year. The second report provided details of the forecast outturn budget position for Children and Young People’s Services highlighting major variances in comparison with the budget for the year, based on the position at the end of quarter one June 2022 (for copy of reports, see file of minutes).
The Finance Manager was in attendance to present the report.
Councillor Coult referred to page 75, paragraph 24 of the quarter four outturn report referencing the underspend on grant funding and asked if this was linked to COVID and that activities were not able to take place. She then referred to point K in relation to £489,632 contribution to Holiday Activities with Food Reserve from grant income which would be repaid to the Department for Education and asked why some of the grants reported were being paid into reserves. She then asked that given financial pressures on schools was there any schools that were close to going into a deficit position.
The Finance Manager responded that if a grant was received and not spent by the end of the financial year it was put into reserves and spent the next financial year.
The Head of Education and Skills commented that a number of the grants were received late.
The Finance Manager then indicated that the grant awarded from the DfE for holiday activities had been affected by COVID and they were unable to deliver the service, so the grant was given back but funding would be received.
The Head of Education and Skills stated that a meeting would be held on 4 October 2022 with wider education staff to look at current school budgets around the energy situation and if there was no more money or payments then they may have 40 or 50 schools that were going to be in a deficit position. They were trying to go out to schools earlier than they would, at the minute they were very nervous in particularly concerning the impacts of the pay award.
Councillor Gunn referred to the dedicated school’s budget and highlighted her concerns about schools and the possibility of 40 or 50 schools in a deficit position converting to academies and asked about what happened to the deficit. The Finance Manager advised that if this were to happen then Durham County Council would carry the deficit and added that this was the worst known pressures on schools which adds pressure to Durham County Council reserves.
In response to a question from Mrs Gunn, the Finance Manager indicated that the vast majority of the £24 million shown in Appendix 2 was home to school transport.
Mrs Gunn sought clarification on the £1.9 million dedicated school grant.
The Finance Manager confirmed that it was individual school transport needs.
In response to a further question from Mrs Gunn, the Head of Education and Skills advised that a piece of work going on around the breakdown of the school transport budget and this would be shared with members.
Members discussed the Dedicated Schools Grant Centrally Retained Block in particular the High Needs and the lack of educational psychologist and occupational therapists and that schools in Durham had been asked not to refer pupils to educational therapists as there was already too many on the waiting list.
Mrs Gunn suggested that local authorities should be employing education psychologists in years 2 or 3 of their training and look into supporting sensory processing which could have a massive impact on behaviour.
Members were advised that the council were struggling to appoint educational psychologists as there was a national limit on the number that were recruited each year and academy trusts were appointing their own.
Councillor Walton referred to schools not using the service level agreements that had resulted in the authority losing that income and asked if they were looking to stop service level agreements if they were no longer been used.
The Head of Education and Skills responded that they still sold a number of service level agreements, and 170 were income was still strong. The School Improvement Monitoring and Brokering Grant was removed which was £800,000 and its withdrawal resulted in the loss of 22 posts within education, this meant that the service were having to deliver service level agreements differently and the feedback from Head Teachers was good.
Resolved: That the overall revenue position be noted.