Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 4, Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley, HA9 9HD. View directions

Contact: Toby Howes - Senior Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1307 Email: toby.howes@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Personal and Prejudicial Interests

Minutes:

None declared.

2.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting Held on 15 September 2010 pdf icon PDF 142 KB

The minutes that are attached were circulated prior to the meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:-

 

that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 15 September 2010 be approved as an accurate record.

3.

Matters Arising

Minutes:

None.

4.

Update on 2010 Revenue Forecast pdf icon PDF 112 KB

An update on the 2010 Revenue Forecast was requested by Members at the last meeting of the Committee.  The attached report was circulated prior to the meeting.

Minutes:

Clive Heaphy (Director of Finance and Corporate Resources) introduced the report that was to be considered by the Executive on 18 October 2010.  He confirmed that the statement of accounts for 2009/10 accounts had been signed off with no qualifications.  Clive Heaphy advised that the outturn for 2009/10 meant that the balance of reserves available to the Council for 2010/11 was £7.5m, a prudent amount in view of the economic circumstances.   Members heard that the Government savings announced on 10 June 2010 meant the council had lost £6.855m of grant funding, including £2.249m of Area Based Grant and £4.606m of other grants including £3.634m of the Local Area Agreement Reward.  The outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was likely to require more significant savings for local authorities, although the specific savings required for each council would not be known until the CSR Local Government Settlement was announced in December 2010.

 

Clive Heaphy then outlined a number of pressures on the general budget for 2010/11, which included increases in client numbers in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services and inflationary pressures from general prices and contracts.  Members heard that there were some long term contracts that the council was involved in which had built-in higher inflation rates which it would seek to renegotiate, although legally this could prove difficult.  The forecast overspend of £5.574m was attributable to reduced income, such as through planning fees and inescapable growth such as those in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services and this would continue to be monitored.  Clive Heaphy referred to the budget and forecast for each service area as set out in the report and he advised that it would not be prudent to balance the budget through using reserves this year and that instead it should be achieved through identifying further savings.

 

With the permission of the Chair, Robert Dunwell addressed the Committee.  Robert Dunwell asked if there was a strategy in place in respect of what non-statutory functions the council could consider restricting or stop providing altogether.

 

During Members’ discussion, Councillor Van Kalwala sought further comments with regard to maintaining a reasonable balance and were there any indications of what the council could expect with regard to the Local Government Settlement following the CSR.  Councillor Long emphasised the importance of achieving recycling targets to save the council costs through landfill charges.  With regard to mental health, she enquired whether Adult Social Care had devised a model of expected demand and would NHS Brent also be sharing in supporting this service and costs.  Councillor Long also asked if the increase in demand and spending in Adult Social Care could be attributed to the colder winter than normal over 2009/10. 

 

The Chair sought views on what would happen if the savings targeted could not be achieved and what the economic projections were for the next 12 months.  He asked for further clarity with regard to the overspend that had occurred.

 

In reply, Clive Heaphy advised that local authorities were legally obliged to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Children and Families Budget Issues

The Director of Children and Families will attend the meeting to provide a presentation for Members on current budget issues facing this service area.

Minutes:

Mustafa Salih (Assistant Director – Finance and Performance, Children and Families) gave a presentation on this item and advised that an overspend of £3.295m was forecast in the Children and Families budget for 2010/11.  A small amount of the overspend, £340,000, was from the schools budget which was in any case ring-fenced and would not affect the council.  However, the remaining overspend of £2.995 would impact upon the budget and this needed to be addressed.  Members heard that up until 2010/11, an invest to save programme had been successful in controlling spending levels.  The amount of looked after children had also fallen until a very recent sharp increase and the rise in demand would need to be managed carefully.  The number of non looked after children being supported by the council was also rising and this would mean increased costs in areas such as adoption.  Mustafa Salih referred to the Children’s Social Care Transformation project, an ongoing gold project aimed at achieving both greater efficiency and savings.  Members noted the different support options for child care and Mustafa Salih stated that changing support options to lower unit costs was being considered. 

 

Mustafa Salih commented on the difficulty in predicting school places, however the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) forecast had lower figures than Brent’s own forecast.  Members noted that the council’s own forecast had prevented there being a shortage of places in previous years, however as demand for places continued to rise, for this year there were presently 111 children without school places.  In addition, there could be further shortages created because of parents pursuing a particular school of their choice.  Members heard that the Capital Programme had identified £26m to deliver an additional ten forms of entry by 2015/16, however there may be a need for up to 15 further additional forms after that year and this would need to be closely monitored.  Mustafa Salih advised that the Government was undertaking a review in respect of the size and focus of future capital funding for schools.

 

Graham Genoni (Assistant Director – Social Care, Children and Families) added that in the case of non looked after children being supported, there had been a significant increase in referrals in the range of 25% to 33% since the Baby P case and this would entail increased costs for support care, including support of both children and their family members, whilst court costs were also increasing.  Non looked after children being supported costs would include a mixture of discretionary and statutory costs.

 

With the approval of the Chair, Robert Dunwell addressed the committee.  Robert Dunwell commented that local authorities had long queried the official population statistics and stated that they could take joint direct action to lobby the Government or even explore legal means to challenge the figures.

 

During Members’ discussion, Councillor Van Kalwala sought further explanation as to why levels of deprivation had increased.  Councillor Long enquired how savings could be achieved in relation to foster care and enquired how the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Environment and Culture Budget Issues

The Director of Environment and Culture will attend the meeting to provide a presentation for Members on current budget issues facing this service area.

Minutes:

Bharat Jashapara (Assistant Director – Strategic Finance, Environment and Culture) gave a presentation on this item and explained that the department covered three main areas of work, these being StreetCare and Transportation, the largest of the three, and the other two being Culture and Policy and Regulation.  Members noted the Environment and Culture 2010/11 budgets and that the department generated significant income.  However, because of the economic downturn, there had been a shortfall in income from planning fees, land charges and StreetCare of around £500,000, whilst there had also been a loss of £350,000 in area based grants.  Whilst an overspend of £850,000 was presently being forecast for 2010/11, it was anticipated that a recovery plan would be successful in ensuring that the department had a balanced budget by the end of the financial year.  Possible further risks to the budget included whether income would continue to fall and a dispute with APCOA, the parking contractors over charges for suspended parking bays.  Although demand for the recently introduced free bulky waste service could exceed expected costs, it was felt that the risk of this was low.

 

With the approval of the Chair, Robert Dunwell addressed the committee.  Robert Dunwell enquired whether budgetary pressures would impact upon service provision, including areas such as planning enforcement.  He also asked how much the parking revenue account had been reduced, in view that both Highways and Transportation were reliant on surpluses made in Environment and Culture.

 

During Members’ discussion, Councillor Long sought further clarification with regard to the dispute with APCOA over suspended parking bays.  Councillor Van Kalwala enquired what areas would contribute most to address the overspend.  He sought further details with regard to the budget position for StreetCare and the waste contract and commented that it was essential that the council took a proactive role in increasing recycling if it was to achieve the rate of 60% set by the Administration.   Councillor Van Kalwala also sought further clarity with regard to the impact on the budget of introducing free collection of bulky waste items.  Councillor Sheth highlighted problems of litter on grass verges and tree roots causing damage to pavements in the Tokyngton ward.

 

In response, Michael Read (Assistant Director – Policy and Regulation, Environment and Culture) advised that APCOA were attempting to back date charges of up to £400,000 for suspended parking bays as they claimed that they should have charged more, however he was confident that the council would be successful in the dispute.  He explained that income from Planning and land charges had been hit by the recession, however in the recovery plan each unit would be set targets to contribute to savings.  Managers from each unit would be empowered to identify where savings could be made and would be accountable for them.  Michael Read advised that similar plans had been successful in previous years and he was confident that the savings required this year would be achieved and he added that in 2009/10 the balance had improved  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 7.30 pm.

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the Budget and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee was scheduled for Wednesday, 10 November at 7.30 pm.

8.

Any Other Urgent Business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Democratic Services Manager or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

Work Programme 2010/11

 

The Chair requested that an item on the outcome of CSR could be added to the work programme and be discussed at the 10 November meeting.  Clive Heaphy confirmed that there would be enough information on this issue to present to Members at the next meeting on 10 November, whilst the implications to changes to the Housing Revenue Account could be presented for the 7 December meeting.