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Apologies and Substitutes
Apologies were received from Mrs Prendergast.
Resolved that the minutes of the meetings held on 24 June 2021 were a correct record and that they be signed by the Chair.
Cabinet Member Updates
1) Mrs Chandler said that the community in Kent had come together to deliver a successful summer programme to help children and young people reconnect to things they had missed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Reconnect Programme received lots of positive messages regarding the opportunities available and how valuable these were to families. Thanks were given to all the clubs, companies, organisations and volunteers who were involved with the summer programme. It was clear that children and young people and their families were able to enjoy a wide range of activities, fun days, trips and support with everything from archery to yoga on offer.
Children also engaged with a variety of online learning opportunities to help them get a head start before the start of term and pupils in Kent represented 40% of the audience of the 82,500 learning opportunities presented by Invicta Academy. There were also visits to the local leisure centres, approximately 600 free school meals were delivered to children and holiday clubs were delivering free places for children on a weekly basis. There were also free bus passes for children and young people from Year 6 to age 18 and some family passes were issued as well.
The Big Ask Survey was launched in 2021 by the Children’s Commissioner for England with the aim to ask children across England to set out their priorities for improving childhood. There were 500,000 responses and they reiterated the need to address the emotional wellbeing of young people.
Through HeadStart Kent, KCC had been addressing this need for a number of years and the scheme aimed to help young people facing difficult circumstances in their lives and prevent them from experiencing common mental health problems. HeadStart Kent had enabled better support through schools, families and communities and the support is designed to be implemented by young people for young people.
KCC was also leading on a number of emotional wellbeing initiatives through MoodSpark which is a website dedicated to promoting resilience and emotional wellbeing for 10 to 16 year olds.
A HeadStart Kent and Kent Clinical Commissioning Group commissioned programme had rolled out counselling available 365 days a year via the website, Kooth. Through the HeadStart Kent Programme, 52,423 young people had benefited, with nearly 15,000 accessing and completing online support through Kooth. HeadStart Kent were also project managing the roll out of the mental health support teams in schools in Kent and Medway. From September 2021 until March 2024, there were to be an additional 13 teams.
The government had funded the Wellbeing for Education Return Project which through The Education People had given training and resources to schools and colleges, supporting staff and pupils. 210 schools and 100% of colleges in Kent had accessed the training.
Kent and Medway Bereavement Service was to deliver a specialist bereavement service to children and young people between the ages of 3 ½ and 25 years old who were experiencing complex grief or traumatic bereavement.
2) Mrs Chandler reported on behalf ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
Zena Cooke, Corporate Director, Finance and Mr Richard Smith, Corporate Director, Adult Social Care and Health were in attendance for this item.
1) Mr Oakford said the report was in a revised format and contained additional information on reserves, the treasury position and council tax. The report was based on the position in May 2021, updated with significant items up until the end of July 2021. The forecast revenue position excluding schools and Covid-19 was a £9.7 million overspend. The majority of the overspend was within Adult Social Care. This included increased cost of care packages for people with learning difficulties and older people. There had been an increase in numbers and the cost for clients with mental health difficulties as well as changes in support for disabled clients with more receiving care through supported living services and less through direct payments. The reported Covid-19 position showed a forecast spend of £32.1million. There were corporately held Covid-19 related budgets of £16.1million and the remainder of the spend was to be met though the Emergency Covid-19 Reserve, resulting in a situation of ‘breaking even’ for the year. Without the additional government funding, KCC’s forecast outturn would have been £32.1million higher.
The Capital Forecast showed an underspend of £42.7million, with £57.3million relating to re-phasing and £14.6million as a ‘real’ overspend. The Schools Delegated Budget had reported a £49.6million overspend which reflected the impact of high demand for additional SEN support and high cost per child of high need placements.
The Treasury Management position was consistent with regular reports to the Governance and Audit Committee which showed the council’s level of external and internal debt and investments. The management of the council’s Treasury was governed by the Treasury Strategy. KCC’s strategy for borrowing was to seek an appropriate low risk balance between low interest rates and long-term certainty over financial cost.
Accumulated external borrowing had amounted to over £850million, largely consisting of long-term maturity debt of fixed rate interest. Only around 15% of the debt was due to mature over the next 5 years. The Investment Strategy sought to take an appropriate balance between risk and return, minimising the risk of incurring losses through defaults, maintain adequate liquidity and securing reasonable returns. The investments included internally managed short term and medium term investments and long term external investments in pooled funds.
Monitoring of district council tax collection had become even more important in the wake of reductions in the council tax base following the Covid-19 pandemic. There had been an impact from increased council tax reduction discounts and reduced collection rates. The scale and pace of recovery on both of these elements would be key in the 2022-23 Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan Strategy as compensation from government had so far only extended to extending the treatment of the in-year collection losses from 1 year to 3 years and for one grant in 2021-22 to compensate for the reduction in the collectible tax base.
2) Ms Cooke said the outcome of the ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Dave Shipton, Head of Finance Policy, Planning and Strategy was in attendance for this item.
1) Mr Oakford said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a Spending Review on 7 September 2021 and was for the next 3 financial years which was a welcome change following recent 1 year settlements. A 3 year settlement would allow KCC to plan. The outcome was to be announced on 27 October with Autumn Budget. The deadline for submissions to review by external stakeholders was 30 September. Thanks were given to Dave Shipton and the Finance Team for the huge amount of work put into the report within a short time. It was hoped that government would take the submission into consideration.
2) Mr Shipton said that the responses from local authorities were likely to have commonality and cover similar points. KCC welcomed the 3 year settlement and KCC’s submission included the impact of previous settlements since the last multi-year Spending Review, which covered 2016-2019. There had been two subsequent 1 year settlements in 2020-21 and 2021-22. In revenue terms, the submission notes that over this period an additional £221million was raised in Kent through council tax, which had increased KCC’s budget in cash terms but there had been a £40.5million reduction in grants from central government (excluding Covid-19). The submission questioned whether this mix of council tax and grants was sustainable moving forward and it was felt there had been an over reliance on council tax. Spending had increased by £500million over the same period and therefore, there was a shortfall in real terms.
Total capital spending had been £1.6billion over that period, of which over £324 million had been funded by borrowing which had an effect on revenue budgets. KCC had a comparatively high level of long-term legacy debt to fund previous capital spending, and if KCC had to take out additional borrowing to fund future capital investment, the financing cost of that could take a significant proportion of any future council tax receipts, if there was not adequate grant funding as part of the Spending Review settlement.
Most of the focus in the submission was on the overall quantum to make sure that local authorities had sufficient resources to meet the demand.
Other comments made in the submission included:
· The adequacy of dedicated schools grant (DSG) and reference was made to the high needs block.
· Evidence was given around social care pressures with increasing complexity of cases and higher costs from clients coming into the system.
· Focus had also been given to the additional £5.4 billion for new social care reforms and whether that was adequate.
· Council tax reform was long overdue.
· Funding reforms through the Fair Funding Review which had been delayed.
3) The Leader said that he welcomed the points made in the report regarding the importance of areas such as infrastructure, economic development, ‘levelling up’. KCC’s ability to play a role in this was dependent on the degree of increasing demand-led expenditures and the ability to flex ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
Rachel Kennard, Chief Analyst was in attendance for this item.
1) Rachel Kennard outlined the report for Quarter 1, reporting results until the end of June 2021. Overall, the position was positive. 22 of the KPIs were ‘RAG’ rated as green, 9 rated as amber and 2 performing below target rated as red.
2) The 2 areas that had been ‘RAG’ rated as red were:
· Under customer services percentage of calls to contact point which were answered. The service had been impacted by staff leaving and a high sickness rate with Covid-19 being a contributing factor. A recruitment drive had started in June, with some new advisors put in post by the end of June and others in early July. Improvements to the answer rate were expected for Quarter 2.
· There had been an improvement for the KPI under Children, Young People and Education, ‘ECHPs issued within 20 weeks’. The KPI was based on a 12 month rolling average and there had been an increase of 4 percentage points on the figure for the year to end of Quarter 4. The trend over the last 4 Quarters was significantly statistically upward.
3) Further positive points from the report were noted:
· The KPI relating to developer contributions secured as a percentage of amount sought had improved from RAG-rated as red in Quarter 4 to green in Quarter 1.
· In Public Health, NHS Health Checks were rated green for Quarter 1 following the introduction of amended targets which reflected the disruption to delivery due to Covid-19.
4) It was also noted during Members’ discussion of the Quarterly Performance Monitoring Report:
· There had been good results in terms of customer satisfaction of 94% for the Registration Service.
· The figure was improving for ECHPs issued within 20 weeks and the numbers going forward from Quarter 1 were to improve more. There had been increased demand and there was preventative work ongoing.
· There had been significant achievements in the measures in the Children’s Social Care area, particularly in the light of the pandemic.
· The improvement in the KPI relating to developer contributions was welcomed as these were contributing towards the cost of waste-related infrastructure.
· It was highlighted that Kent’s Plan Bee Facebook page had 950 followers.
· It was anticipated that the KPI relating to customer services percentage of calls to contact point which were answered, would see significant improvement in the next Quarter.
· Improvements to the KPI relating to FOI requests were sought as there were legal and reputational repercussions.
5) Resolved that the Quarterly Performance Report – Quarter 1 be noted.
1) Mrs Bell introduced the report regarding ‘Building Back Better’ and advised that the government had announced its plans for Health and Social Care, particularly in relation to funding. It had been proposed that £5.4billion was to be invested into Adult Social Care over the following 3 years but it was not clear how this would be allocated to local authorities. There were elements that would need to be taken into consideration such as client contributions to their care, funding of the cap, the effect of demand as more people become eligible for council support for their care. KCC awaited further details and the White Paper but consideration was being given to the potential impact on the Budget.
Almost all self-funding clients paid higher fees for care costs than those funded by the local authority. The proposed changes would possibly lead to the reduction or elimination of the fee differential between self-funders and those funded by the local authority. It was unclear whether the risk was to be borne by providers whose income would be reduced or by the local authority paying higher fees. It was acknowledged that either scenario would potentially have a big impact on the sustainability of the provider market or severe additional pressure on council budgets.
Spending on social care accounted for half of KCC’s budget, supporting not only older people but people of working age with disabilities. The additional funding from the National Insurance Contributions Levy was to cover the cost of implementing the changes set out in the proposals but there was still an expectation that the demographic and cost pressures would have to be met through council tax, the social care precept and long-term efficiencies.
The appendix to the report highlighted situation with regard to care in rural areas and the challenges including high demand for services for people over 65 and a recent decrease in contracting of residential care provision. It recommended to the government that as well as increasing funding in the Spending Review to might rising cost and unmet need before 2023, the government enshrine in law that a dedicated proportion of the levy be allocated to social care.
2) The Leader said thanked Dave Shipton and Michael Thomas-Sam for the report.
3) RESOLVED to note the report.
Ben Watts, General Counsel; Stephanie Holt-Castle, Director for Growth and Communities and Deborah Kapaj, Sustainable Estates Programme Manager were in attendance for this item.
1) Miss Carey introduced the report which was focused on the work KCC was doing to achieve Net Zero for KCC services and estates by 2030. It was important that there was proper measurement of what was achieved but the achievement of Net Zero was a clear aim. KCC had been measuring its carbon emissions since 2005 and these were reported as part of the Quarterly Performance Monitoring. The pace and focus on reduction of carbon emissions had increased here, nationally and internationally. £20.6million of funding had been awarded to KCC projects from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which was significantly more than other local authorities in the south east had been awarded.
There was an obligation to spend the funding and deliver the projects before the end of March 2022 and the team had been working across the whole council to delivering the projects and to reduce KCC’s carbon emissions.
2) Ms Kapaj said that a huge amount of progress had been made since the target had been set. There was a very detailed action plan and much of the action plan had been initiated and progress was being made on reducing KCC’s emissions. Details of the plan and roadmap were included as appendices to the report.
Wider work was ongoing through the Climate Change Network which was overseen by the Kent & Medway Environment Group. Alongside KCC’s commitments, the districts had plans for their areas. More would need to be done to support businesses who would not have the expertise or resources.
3) Ms Holt-Castle said there were 3 areas that would need to be tackled in order to meet the Kent target of Net Zero by 2050: roads and transport, domestic housing and industrial commercial buildings. These areas made up 90% of emissions and support was needed from central government in terms of national legislation and in terms of funding to incentivise in those areas.
4) Mr Watts said it was vital that KCC stayed within the legal and governance confines. The projects were complicated to deliver and work was moving at pace, requiring significant resources.
In response to questions, it was noted:
· The climate had already changed and there would be more work with adapting to climate change. KCC was ahead of other local authorities and in a strong position in terms of the climate change agenda. KCC had identified the risks and mitigations to be put in place to deal with climate change. It was acknowledged that even when targets are met, climate change would still have an effect in the county.
· KCC’s fleet of vehicles were moving towards being fully electric and there was a fleet of 39 (soon to be 48) electric vans which were being lent out to businesses for free. This was done through Highways England funding the capital costs and KCC meeting the revenue costs. Low Carbon ... view the full minutes text for item 16.