Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary Budget Scrutiny Meeting: Part 1, Resources Scrutiny Commission - Tuesday, 31st January, 2023 4.45 pm

Venue: The Council Chamber - City Hall, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR. View directions

Contact: Johanna Holmes 

Link: Watch Live Webcast

Items
No. Item

16.

Welcome, Introductions and Safety Information pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed attendees to the meeting and drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.

 

17.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

It was noted that apologies had been received from Cllrs Gary Hopkins, Mohamed Makawi, Tim Rippington, Sharon Scott and Mark Weston.

 

18.

Declarations of Interest

To note any declarations of interest from councillors.  They are asked to indicate the relevant agenda item, the nature of the interest and in particular whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest.

Any declaration of interest made at the meeting which is not on the register of interests should be notified to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

19.

Chair's Business

To note any announcements from the Chair.

Minutes:

None.

20.

Public Forum pdf icon PDF 189 KB

Please note:

Up to 45 minutes will be allowed for this item. This session will cover both Part 1 and Part 2 of this Extraordinary meeting of the Resources Scrutiny Commission, i.e. there will not be a separate public forum session for Part 2 of this meeting which is being held on 2 February.

As this is an Extraordinary meeting, any questions, petitions or statements must relate to the business for which this Extraordinary meeting has been arranged.

Any member of the public or councillor may participate in Public Forum. The detailed arrangements for so doing are set out in the Public Information Sheet at the back of this agenda. Public Forum items should be emailed to scrutiny@bristol.gov.uk and please note that the following deadlines will apply in relation to this meeting:

 

Questions - Written questions must be received at least 3 clear working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting, this means that questions must be received in this office at the latest by 5.00 pm on Wednesday 25 January 2023

 

Petitions and Statements - Petitions and statements must be received at latest by 12 noon on the working day prior to the meeting. For this meeting, this means that petitions and statements must be received in this office at the latest by

12.00 noon on Monday 30 January 2023

Minutes:

Questions

It was noted that the following two questions had been submitted by Tom Merchant, Unison:

 

Q1. Deletion of vacant roles in teams by senior managers added to the recruitment freeze has put staff under pressure in several teams but particularly in customer-facing roles like libraries. This seems to be a fait accompli before the council has actually made a decision on cuts, does the committee think that this should be relaxed until staff consultation has been completed some time after this full council budget meeting?

 

Q2. At Cabinet yesterday, Cllr Asher Craig mentioned about in-house services (which I thanked her for). With the extra workstreams in the recommendations: children’s homes; learning disability and autism; and cultural outreach programmes is the committee worried we are wasting in-house talent making council staff redundant when they could be utilised on these projects rather than outside providers?

 

The Chair commented that in the context of the budget process, it was not appropriate for the Resources Scrutiny Commission to express a direct opinion on these matters.

 

Points raised/noted:

1. Cllr Fodor commented that there may be an issue if the freezing of recruitment to posts led to increased workload/pressure on other members of staff. 

2. Cllr Cheney advised that the recruitment freeze had been introduced in response to the in-year budget pressures.  He stressed that any service redesigns/restructures would be developed taking full account of service needs.

3. The Director: Workforce and Change clarified that a total recruitment freeze had not been in place; a ‘dispensation’ process had accompanied the freeze whereby certain posts had been recruited to subject to the scrutiny/approval of senior management - for example, any recruitment in relation to the Growth and Regeneration directorate had been subject to approval by the Executive Director.

4. In relation to question 2, the Director: Workforce and Change advised that Human Resources would be supporting directorates in relation to service redesigns, and as part of this every opportunity would be explored to redeploy any displaced members of staff; the importance of seeking to retain experienced and committed individuals was recognised.

5. It was noted that a written reply would also be sent to Unison in relation to these questions.

(Action: via the Scrutiny team, a written response to be sent to Unison)

 

Statements

It was that the following statements had been submitted:

1. Cllr Carla Denyer - topic: carbon impact assessments

2. David Redgewell, Robbie Bentley, Gordon Richardson and Brendon Taylor - topic: comments on the proposed budget including the transport levy.

David Redgewell briefly outlined this statement - it was noted/agreed that as this statement related to the Growth and Regeneration elements of the budget, it would be appropriate for the statement to be presented at Part 2 of the meeting on 2 February, when members of the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Commission would be present.

 

 

21.

Scrutiny of 2023/24 Budget Proposals (part 1)

Explanatory note:

 

This meeting will be held over two sessions (31 January and 2 February) to scrutinise the Mayor’s 2023/24 budget proposals, as submitted to the Cabinet on 24 January and in advance of the Full Council budget meeting on 21 February.

 

During the 31 January session, members will scrutinise the sections of the budget relating to the remits of the People Scrutiny Commission and the Resources Scrutiny Commission.

 

Members of the People Scrutiny Commission and the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board have also been invited to attend this session.

 

Members’ comments will be reported to the Full Council budget meeting.

 

During the two sessions Scrutiny Members will focus on the information in the following reports that have been published for the Cabinet meeting on the 24 January:

 

Budget report & Treasury Management Strategy 2023/24

 

Dedicated Schools Grant budget proposals 2023/24

 

Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget Proposals 2023/24

 

Financial update report - January 2023

 

Minutes:

It was noted that the Finance Task Group had identified a number of issues/questions/areas of focus in advance of these budget scrutiny sessions. Part 1 of the meeting was accordingly structured around these areas of focus.

 

 

PEOPLE (Children and Education & Adult and Communities directorates):

 

1. Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG)

In advance of the meeting, members had identified a key concern about the impact of very substantial pressures and significant challenges in the Early Years and High Needs blocks and how these could be sustainably resolved.  The extent to which reserves were being used was a serious issue and an area of high ongoing risk for the Council. It was essential to address how a sustainable annual position could be achieved as quickly as possible

 

Points raised/noted:

1. Cllr Craig commented as follows:

a. Notwithstanding the particular circumstances in Bristol, the challenge faced around DSG deficit was a national issue with serious implications for a significant number of local authorities.

b. It was acknowledged that there had been a 7% increase for 2023/24 from government in terms of the annual DSG funding increase. 

c. In terms of the high needs block deficit, the statutory override permitted by the government allowed borrowing from other council budgets to cover the deficit, but it was fully recognised that a long-term plan was needed to achieve a sustainable solution.  The statutory override effectively gave the Council a maximum of 3 years to achieve a solution and reduce the deficit.

d. A DSG management plan was being developed, with the engagement of the Bristol Schools Forum, including a range of mitigations.  This sat alongside the Delivering Better Value programme which would identify opportunities to improve outcomes for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).  Scrutiny would be kept informed of and consulted on the management plan (Action: to be picked up in the context of the People / Resources scrutiny work programmes)

e. It was recognised that a holistic approach was also required to significantly improve inclusive practices in school/academy settings, learning from all available best practice. This was particularly important in terms of improving early interventions, recognising the context of continuing, increased demand for Education, Health and Care Plans.

 

2. In response to a question about whether there had been sufficient strategic focus on the DSG issue over the last decade, Cllr Craig commented that, in her view, it would have been preferable if better planning and collective action had taken place collaboratively across the 4 West of England unitary authorities 5-10 years ago.

 

3. In response to further questions, Cllr Craig stated that given the scale of this issue nationally, it was her view that the government needed to provide further financial assistance to authorities; the Council must also take all possible action to reduce the scale/ trajectory of the deficit.

 

4. The Director: Finance commented that implementing the Delivering Better Value programme will be an important step in demonstrating that progress is being made; however, it was also clear  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Meeting adjournment

Explanatory note:

 

Once item 6 above has been concluded, this meeting will be adjourned and will reconvene at 4.00 pm on Thursday 2 February.

Minutes:

The meeting was adjourned at 7.22 pm (to reconvene at 4.00 pm on 2 February 2023)