Venue: Mezzanine Room 1, County Hall, Aylesbury. View directions
Contact: Katy MacDonald Helen WaillingItems Note No. Item
Apologies/Changes in Membership
Apologies were received from Roy Davey, Michael Moore, Jon Bilson, Mike Appleyard and Avril Davies
Members noted that Mary Baldwin was in attendance as substitute for Avril Davies.
Declarations of Interest
To declare any personal and prejudicial interest
There were no declarations of interest.
Minutes PDF 173 KB
The minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2009 to be agreed.
- Flood Prevention in Buckinghamshire, 08/12/2009 Overview & Scrutiny Commissioning Committee, item 3. PDF 16 KB
The minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2009 were confirmed as a correct record subject to the following:
Ruth Vigor-Hedderly’s apologies was not noted.
Members of the public have the opportunity to put their point of view to the committee about matters on its agenda. Each person will have a maximum of four minutes to put forward their views and comments on those items they wish to address. There will be an overall time limit of sixteen minutes. The Chairman will be expected to respond within 7 working days detailing any course of action resulting from the representation.
There were no public questions.
Councillor Calls for Action
There were no Councillor Calls for Action.
Cabinet Member Decisions/Forward Plan
Members had no comments on pending decisions.
There were no requests for call-ins.
The Chairman updated Members:
Task and Finish Groups
All progressing well, although it was highlighted that the programme had been put behind slightly due to the recent adverse weather conditions.
Overview and Scrutiny Commissioning Committee
The Forward Plan for the next quarter has been agreed.
Winter Maintenance was due to be discussed at the Commissioning Committee. Unfortunately it was not possible for a report to be produced in the timescales due to a heavy workload, following the recent adverse weather conditions. A verbal update and discussion was offered but the Chairman said he felt a written report was necessary for a robust and structured debate. The Chairman said that Winter Maintenance is an important item and proposed that Members might like to consider forming a Winter Maintenance Task and Finish Group to consider whether Buckinghamshire’s winter maintenance programme is achievable and if resources are sufficient. The Chairman said that there were some wide ranging issues which needed to be considered and advised that the Local Government Agency (LGA) has asked the Local Authority to feedback comments following the snow last year. He said it is possible that that they will request the same this year. Members were invited to note that there Essex County Council was holding a conference in March 2010for Local Authorities and Officers from overseas. The Chairman said that it would be good to have a response from the Commissioning Committee to feed into the County Council response to the LGA. Members agreed to the setting up of the Winter Maintenance Task and Finish Group.
Action: Trevor Egleton/ Michael Chard
A Member expressed their disappointment that there was no report and that Members would not have the opportunity to consider and discuss the issues as he had been collecting comments from Parishes.
A Member asked if the Chairman could write to the Cabinet Member for Transportation on behalf of the Commissioning Committee expressing their disappointment. This was agreed.
Action: Trevor Egleton
Members had a discussion regarding the condition of the roads and whether filling potholes was good value for money. A Member said that the issue of potholes was a nationwide problem and it was suggested that advice from countries that regularly have frost and snow should be sought. It was further suggested that the technology used should be investigated to see if alternatives could be more effective. The Committee discussed the damage potholes can cause to cars and also highlighted the danger they present to cyclists and motorbikes. A Member pointed out that the condition of pavements was just as bad as some of the roads and asked if this could be included in the remit of any reviews. The Committee was informed that last year a Task and Finish Group looked at the cost of repairing potholes, which estimated the costs of repairing a pothole at £55-60 but to repair a square metre of road was £20. The previous Task and Finish Group recommended the plane and patch programme. The Member said that currently the potholes need to be made safe and that they are assessed under different categories and that a Category 1 pothole needs addressing as a priority. It was suggested that any review looks at road replacement not just potholes.
The Chairman said that a Task and Finish Group which would look at potholes and the conditions of the roads/pavements could be set up in the future.
Early Years Single Funding Formula PDF 63 KB
Marion Clayton, Cabinet Member for Achievement, Learning & Skills
Jane Nicholls, Training and Business Manager, Early Years and Childcare
The paper and associated discussion will inform members of the results of the consultation exercise and the proposed next steps up to implementation of the Early Years Single Funding Formula.
All local authorities have been required to design and implement a single local funding formula for funding the free entitlement to early years provision for 3 and 4 year olds across all sectors. The County Council will be introducing this from April 2010.
The formula has been developed by Buckinghamshire County Council in partnership with the Providers Forum and Schools Forum. As part of the process the County Council consulted with its providers for a minimum period of 6 weeks, this ran from 5 October until 20 November 2009.
Marion Clayton, Cabinet Member for Achievement, Learning & Skills,
Jane Nicholls, Training and Business Manager, Early Years and Childcare and Gavin Kinsman, Business Partner, CYP attended the meeting to inform Members of the results of the consultation exercise and the proposed next steps up to implementation of the Early Years Single Funding Formula (EYSFF)
The Cabinet Member introduced the item and drew Members attention to the recommendations on page 15 of the report. Members were advised that the Schools Forum were meeting that afternoon and would also be considering the EYSFF. The Cabinet Member made a point of clarification with regards to recommendation 1 and said that recommendation 1 may be interpreted to read that the ‘OSCC is asked to recommend to the Schools Forum to agree to the proposals for the EYSFF’. It was highlighted that the OSCC does not have the remit to make recommendations to the Schools Forum but that the Schools Forum is able to make recommendations to County Council and the Cabinet Member for Achievement, Learning and Skills.
Members NOTED this point of clarification
Ms Nicholls took Members through the report and said that work on the EYSFF had been ongoing for the past eighteen months and that all Local Authorities (LAs) have been required to design and implement a single local funding formula for funding the free entitlement to early year’s provision for 3 and 4 year olds across all sectors. The County Council was anticipating introducing this from April 2010.
Members were informed that the Provider Forum was set up with representatives from across the sector, from which two representatives were nominated to sit on the Schools Forum and that it has been recommended that the membership of the Early Years representatives to the Schools Forum be increased.
The Officer advised that the proposal is to fund all sectors using a single formula which may not necessarily be the same but will be transparent. The formula has been developed by Buckinghamshire County Council in partnership with the Providers Forum and Schools Forum. As part of the process the County Council consulted with its providers for a minimum period of 6 weeks, this ran from 5 October until 20 November 2009. The Committee was advised that the consultation document contained 10 key elements and that there was a return rate of 43% (189 out of 444). All elements were agreed although for elements 1,2 and 7 the margin was slim and there will be ongoing discussions into these areas.
Members were informed that the DCSF recently announced that there was provision to delay the introduction of EYSFF under certain circumstances and situations.
Following discussion Members then asked questions. The questions and answers are summarised below:
If private providers are cautious about early years provision. How much of a risk is it that they will withdraw this provision and what is the risk to BCC?
Out of 444 providers, 151 are private. The changes in early year’s provision are tremendous and the pressure on sectors is significant. 12 providers have made enquiries with the LA about an exit strategy. BCC do not know if they intend to withdraw provision and for users to pay privately or if they intend to exit and sell on the business. If any provider exits out of the market place other providers need to be encouraged to move in. The final resort is that the LA is required to set up provision to meet its statutory duty to secure sufficient childcare places.
One of the recommendations is that the authority becomes a Pathfinder authority. What is the timeline in relation to this? – When does the decision have to be made regarding this?
It is expected to be implemented by April 2010 and an application will be submitted next week. BCC should hear confirmation by February 15th but are working on the assumption that they will continue.
A Member enquired how knowledgeable parents were and if they were aware of the different provisions available?
In light of the recent changes they probably do not have sufficient knowledge at present. There is information regarding the provisions available on the BCC website. Officers also work closely with Children’s Centres and the Family Information Service. The Officer said that the government was setting up a new web based directory which will have national and local guidance. It was highlighted that work on the BCC website is ongoing to make it more family friendly.
At what age do BCC become statutorily responsible for children’s education?
Statutorily children must attend school the term after their 5th birthday. They have entitlement to 3 and 4 year old provision but are not statutorily required to take it up.
You mention that the LA has funding for 2 year old provision aimed at the most disadvantaged 2% of the population (104 places), how is this going to function?
There is set criteria which BCC follow. The first requirement is that the parent/carer must be in receipt of one of the income benefits as listed. Thereafter BCC has additional set criteria, this includes being known to social care or on the child protection register amongst others and two of the additional criteria must be met. Children are referred to the pilot by professionals not parents. Once a child has a place they are offered access to parents support and prioritised to make sure they take up their free entitlement as a three year old.
Members NOTED the report and AGREED the recommendations
Please note that this item has been withdrawn from the agenda
This item was withdrawn from the agenda at the Chairman’s discretion.
Peter Hardy, Chairman of the Examination of the Budget Task and Finish Group
To present the committee with the key findings and draft recommendations from the Examination of the Budget in Public.
The Committee commissioned a task and finish group to undertake the annual examination of the budget in public review. In previous years this exercise was undertaken by the now decommissioned Performance and Resources overview and scrutiny committee. The purpose of the review is to challenge Portfolio Holders
The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commissioning Committee advised that the Task and Finish Group provided a focussed and robust assessment of the budget. He commented that the Task and Finish Group was well structured and had to operate to a tight schedule. He thanked the Chairman, Mr P Hardy, Members of the Task and Finish Group and the supporting Officers.
Mr P Hardy, Chairman of the Examination of the Budget Task and Finish Group presented to the Committee the key findings and discussed the draft recommendations from the Examination of the Budget in Public.
He thanked Mr M Chard (Policy Team), Mrs C Gray (Democratic Services) and Officers from the finance department for the support they provided. Members were advised that the Task and Finish Group had met with each Cabinet Member and looked at the overarching question:
Will the proposed budget for 2010/11 and the medium-term plan for subsequent years enable the Council to continue to provide the level of services expected by Buckinghamshire residents?
Mr Hardy said that Members of the Task and Finish Group were aware that the setting of the budget was challenging for all Cabinet Members as there was uncertainty around public spending.
The draft recommendations as follows were discussed:
1.The Group accepts the rationale for the proposal to increase Council tax by 2 per cent.
2. It is recommended that the budget and medium-term plan are reassessed mid-year as soon as key uncertainties around government polices and funding are resolved/ diminished.
3. It is recommended that there is greater transparency on the below the line items which will help secure public support for the budget narrative of “coping with austerity”
4. It is recommended that a capital borrowing strategy is developed in order to inform the circumstances in which prudential borrowing will be permitted to fund long-term capital programmes.
5. It is recommended that the mid-year reassessment of the budget and medium-term plan (recommendation 2) explicitly takes into account the Aims set out in the newly adopted Corporate Plan.
6. It is recommended that the Council communicates its financial strategy and its service plans more effectively to the public.
7. It is recommended that there is a reinstatement of the reduction in the “We’re Working On It” road maintenance programme. (£675k)
8. It is recommended that the work undertaken by the Overview & Scrutiny Commissioning Committee on mandatory and discretionary spend be further developed, and the results input into a mid-year budget and medium-term plan review (recommendation 2 above)
9. It is recommended that the completion of a Corporate Property strategy is made a priority in order to provide a vehicle by which to prioritise both properties the County Council wishes to dispose of and a list of property development priorities across portfolios.
10. It is recommended for the next three years that progress on Transformation be the major objective of each Cabinet Member, and they should make reports every three months to the Overview & Scrutiny Commissioning Committee in respect of their portfolios.
A point of clarification was made and it was noted that the Pathfinder project had not stopped, but the Shared Services element of Pathfinder had.
Mr N Hussain thanked the Chairman of the Task and Finish Group and the Officers who supported the Group, highlighting that it had been a useful and focussed exercise. He commented that in relation to Recommendation 1, that he agreed to the rationale for the budget but could not agree to the rise of 2%.
Members discussed the report and made the following comments:
- The importance of the Capital Strategy was highlighted.
- The importance of Transformation.
- That previous recommendations of the now decommissioned Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Performance and Resources, Budget Task and Finish Group had not been followed through, specifically the Corporate Property Strategy.
- A Corporate Property Strategy was necessary so that in the future Buckinghamshire have identifiable properties to sell when the market is at the right time to sell them.
- Clarity was needed regarding prudenttial borrowing. On one side a Member asked if it made good sense to borrow, albeit at a low income rate when the County already needed £7.6m to balance the books. Whilst on the other hand it was highlighted that the County may be putting off works which may cost more in the future and that borrowing to address specific needs may save the County money in the long and short term.
- What the number of agency staff employed for the Council was and where they were engaged?- it was highlighted that the cost of agency staff is also more costly than those directly employed by the Council and that by reducing the number of agency staff and increasing the number of staff employed directly by the Council savings could be provided.
Mr P Hardy made a recommendation that the Overview and Scrutiny Commissioning Committee accept the report. The Chairman said that he would take a majority decision and noted Mr N Hussain’s comments in relation to recommendation 1.
The draft recommendations were AGREED
Mr P Hardy will be presenting the report to the next Cabinet meeting and will note Mr N Hussain’s concerns.
Date of Next Meeting
The date for the next meeting is 23 February 2010 at 10am in Mezzanine 1, County Hall, Aylesbury.
The date for the next meeting is 23 February 2010 at 10am in Mezzanine 1, County Hall, Aylesbury.