Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Connor Hall Scrutiny Adviser
Cllr William Routley, Meirion Rushworth
Declarations of Interest
A committee member asked for feedback regarding active travel in schools.
The minutes of the previous meeting held 30th November 2021 were accepted as a true and accurate record.
1. 2022-23 Budget and Medium Term Financial Projections
Meirion Rushworth – Head
The Assistant Head of Finance introduced the report and gave an overview.
What are the long term effects of the report?
- The Assistant Head of Finance informed committee that Welsh Government gave an indicative funding settlement figure for 2023-24 and 2024-25, which was not as high as the current year. The Assistant Head of Finance noted that this does mean that there is a broadly balanced medium term plan, and while it is based on assumptions, to be in this position was a market improvement.
Whether the balance in hand referenced in the report was the reserve?
- The Assistant Head of Finance clarified that balance in hand referred to budget yet to be allocated. The Assistant Head of Finance informed committee that they knew what core funding would be available and were making assumptions based on this.
A committee member highlighted the importance of indicative funding settlement figures.
- The Assistant Head of Finance agreed and informed committee that it was something that had been asked for as it enables long term planning and better decision making. The Assistant Head of Finance also noted that changes to data collection would be beneficial to Newport in the near future.
What consultations have taken place on the budget and how can we learn from them?
- The Assistant Head of Finance felt it was best for colleagues from specific service areas to comment on this but informed committee that the main consultation was currently underway, with draft budget conversations taking place with Leader and Cabinet. The Assistant Head of Finance noted that they would further engage with Scrutiny, Schools Budget Forum, Employee Partnership Forum and other mediums as well as the public on this matter.
How would free school meals for students outside of term time affect the budget?
- The Assistant Head of Finance informed committee that Welsh Government include a tab on grants to be issued throughout the year in their budget settlement information, which showed a new grant stream that would be put towards that initiative. The Assistant Head of Finance informed committee that they had been allocated £40m but were waiting for more details. The Assistant Head of Finance informed committee that this would only cover part of the year as it was not due to begin until September and would be phased in. Welsh Government had been clear that funding would only cover the gap between meals currently being provided and they were waiting for clarity on whether it would also cover holidays. The Assistant Head of Finance noted that if Welsh Government decide to continue provision through summer holidays and beyond, there would be an expectation for grant funding to do this.
What would happen if funding was not made available by Welsh Government for this?
Conclusions of Committee Reports
Following the completion of the Committee reports, the Committee will be asked to formalise its conclusions, recommendations and comments on previous items for actioning.
· Questions were raised as to whether the Council are certain that the RSG grants will cover the free school meals initiative in future – throughout the school year and holidays. Some Councillors queried whether NCC would be expected to cover the cost in future.
· Is there any need for another high school in the medium term and if so, is that accounted for in funding?
· How will the rise in living wage and real living wage effect the Social Services budget and has this been costed?
· Clarity was requested on meal income reducing to 0 and legal charges doubling (page 53 on the report) – are both of these changes essential and how will they effect the budget overall?
a) Forward Work Programme Update (Appendix 1)
b) Actions Arising (Appendix 2)
c) Information Reports (Appendix 3)
The Scrutiny Adviser discussed with Committee the date of the next meeting, the 29th of April.