Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 20th January, 2022 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Anna Taylor  03000 416478


No. Item


Declarations of Interests by Members in items on the Agenda for this Meeting

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No declarations were made.


Minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2021 pdf icon PDF 190 KB

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RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2021 were an accurate record and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Review of Select Committee on Loneliness and Social Isolation Recommendations pdf icon PDF 155 KB

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Mr D Whittle, Director of Strategy, Policy, Relationships and Corporate Assurance; and Ms L Jackson, Policy and Relationships Adviser were in attendance and Mr P Lightowler, Interim Director of Transport; and Ms S Sheppard, Communities and Place Lead, Adults Social Care and Health were in virtual attendance for this item.


1.    Mrs Bell introduced the update on the Select Committee on Loneliness and Social Isolation’s recommendations and proposed actions, noting the previous comments made by the Committee at its October 2021 meeting. She drew Members’ attention to the added focus on tackling loneliness and isolation caused by the pandemic. The importance of social prescribing was emphasised, including that it formed a key part of Government’s response to loneliness. Clarification on the role of the Civil Societies Strategy in relation to the recommendations was given.


2.    When asked by a Member how success would be measured, Mrs Bell agreed to report back to the Committee the progress made against the recommendations, at the appropriate time. Mr Whittle added that monitoring KCC and NHS social isolation data would provide a general indication of progress. The Member asked that the number of people socially prescribed be monitored.


3.    In relation to the Connected Communities pilot, a Member asked how outcomes would be monitored. Ms Sheppard gave the reassurance that evaluation of the pilot would be published, with the involvement of the University of Kent, in March 2023.


4.    In relation to recommendation 1, ‘that Adult Social Care and Health lead further investigations into the prevention or reduction of loneliness and social isolation amongst specific groups of people who are also likely to be impacted,’ a Member encouraged the continued monitoring of the progress made to reduce loneliness in vulnerable groups. The continuation of the social prescribing service beyond the pilot, if at all possible, was encouraged.


5.    A Member emphasised the need to simplify communication tools for isolated residents, in order to increase accessibility. Reducing the use of technical acronyms, integrating KCC and NHS websites and investing in a signposting helpline were mentioned as possible solutions. Mr Whittle confirmed that work was underway with local NHS partners to simplify signposting, with the aim of reducing duplication and improving access.


6.    Mr Lightowler was asked how the Kent Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) impacted the updated recommendations. He confirmed that Kent Karrier, part of the commitments made against recommendation 6, composed part of the Kent BSIP. He informed Members that the draft BSIP was submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) in October 2021 and that KCC’s funding allocation was yet to be confirmed by the Department.


7.    The Chairman thanked Mrs Bell and the officers in attendance for their responses and cooperation with the Committee.

RESOLVED to note the proposed approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness set out in the report and the closed action plan.



Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2022-23 and Medium-Term Financial Plan 2022-25 pdf icon PDF 197 KB

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Committee consideration based on the draft budget issued 5 January 2022.


1.    Mr Oakford introduced the Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan. In summarising consideration to that point, he noted that as well as briefing Members himself, Cabinet Members had given explanations of the draft budget in relation to their respective portfolios at each Cabinet Committee. He confirmed that Finance had worked closely with Cabinet Members and Corporate Directors throughout the drafting process. He outlined the proposed council tax increase, which amounted to an increase of 2.99%, and confirmed that its core purpose was to cover demand led cost pressures. He recognised that there could be a requirement to make further cost savings if future Local Government Finance Settlements did not increase to reflect changes in demand. He emphasised that any future cost savings would involve individual public consultations and executive key decisions. Budget risks were addressed and the importance of continued in-year budget monitoring recognised. Members were informed that a £20m in-year revenue budget overspend was anticipated for the 2021/22 financial year, which would be accounted for through a drawdown of reserves. He mentioned that Government were analysing the funding methodology for the next two financial years.


2.    Mr Gough contextualised the draft budget in relation to key developments over the previous financial year, which included Government Covid-19 grant funding and significant changes to service demand and case complexity. The aim of the Medium-Term Financial Plan, to maintain a stable finance position and operations, was highlighted.


3.    Members asked a range of questions in relation to the Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2022-23 and Medium-Term Financial Plan 2022-25. Key issues raised by the Committee and responded to by Cabinet included the following:


a.    A Member asked for assurance from the Corporate Director of Finance, as the Section 151 Officer, that KCC was in a financially sustainable position, especially when the drawdown of reserves was considered. Ms Cooke reassured the Committee that she was satisfied that the proposals and use of reserves over the next two years were financially sustainable. She reminded Members that her Section 25 Assurance Statement, on the robustness of the budget proposals and Medium-Term Financial Plan, would be presented to County Council at its budget meeting on 10 February 2022. She acknowledged that there were tangible risks in years 2 and 3 of the Medium-Term Financial Plan. Regarding the maintenance of reserves, she cited the intention to maintain a revenue budget to reserve ratio of 5%. Mr Gough noted that the general reserve had increased in size over recent years.


b.    Mr Oakford was asked to explain his strategy regarding the future use of reserves and was encouraged to avoid funding discretionary spending from reserves. He stressed that reserves would be used as a last resort and addressed the use of reserves in the 2021/22 finance year which was termed as a loan against future savings. He further emphasised the need to pursue a 5% reserve policy. He  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Any other business

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1.    A Member asked that in year revenue budget monitoring be added to the work programme. Members emphasised the need to avoid Scrutiny duplicating the work of the Governance and Audit Committee.


2.    Mr Barrington King gave an update on the Home to School Transport Short Focused Inquiry. He confirmed that the final inquiry session had taken place and that the draft report was considered by Members ahead of the final decision at Scrutiny in March. He commended all Members involved for their contributions and time given to the inquiry.