Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 25th January, 2023 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone

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 7 December 2022 pdf icon PDF 220 KB

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RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2022 were an accurate record and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Revenue and Capital Budget Monitoring Report - September 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 184 KB

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1.    The Chairman introduced the item and reminded Members of the Committee’s previous consideration of the revenue and capital budget monitoring report at its 7 December meeting, where it was agreed to defer consideration of the report to a future meeting.


2.    Mr Oakford provided a summary of the report and reminded the Committee that it contained the Council’s financial position to September 2022, with an in-year overspend at financial year end forecast at £60m. A breakdown of overspend at the directorate level was provided, with Adult Social Care and Children, Young People and Education highlighted as the directorates with the most significant forecast overspends at £27.7m and £33.9m respectively. The Committee were warned that the forecast set out in the report meant that KCC could not rely solely on its £25m risk reserve to offset overspend. It was explained that the remaining overspend would need to be drawn down from the general reserve as well as earmarked reserves in certain cases. 


3.    Mr Oakford was asked, by a Member, what actions had been taken in response to the first forecast of an in year overspend in the 2022/23 financial year and whether the agreed revenue budget had been unrealistic. He confirmed that an overspend of £70m had been predicted in the June 2022 budget monitoring report, with the prediction adjusted to £60m in the September report. He reminded Members that the risk reserve had been included in the budget to mitigate the impact of an in year overspend and that higher than forecast inflation, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine which followed the agreement of the budget in February, had caused greater cost pressures.


4.    Mrs Chandler addressed the projected overspend within Integrated Children’s Services. A national shortage of social workers which had necessitated a greater use of agency staff as well as a shortage of foster carers and increased service demand were cited as the main factors. She assured Members that Early Help Services continued to offer positive prevention which reduced, over the long term, the number of children in care and pressure on the Council.


5.    Mrs Bell detailed the key reasons for the projected overspend within Adult Social Care. She shared her disappointment that all earmarked savings had not been realised. Delays to the full implementation of the new operating model, inflationary costs pressures, increased case complexity and demand, a national shortage of care staff and increased use of short term beds which were linked to hospital discharge were cited as contributing factors.


6.    Miss Carey drew Members’ attention to the anticipated overspend within the Environment portfolio. She explained that increased contract costs for the incineration of residual waste, which were tied to RPI and stood at 10% in April 2022, were the main factor. The efforts to offset overspend by increasing service revenue, minimise costly waste processing routes and improvements to recycling and reuse were explained.


7.    Mr Love addressed the projected overspends within Education, drawing attention to the £13.6m overspend on Home to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.


Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2023-24 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2023-26 pdf icon PDF 205 KB

Please refer to the draft budget report published and shared on 3 January 2023.

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Committee consideration based on the draft budget issued on 3 January 2023.


1.    Mr Oakford introduced the administration’s budget proposals. He informed the Committee that the Council faced its most challenging financial position in recent history and that whilst the local government finance settlement from government had been better than anticipated, £39.1m in further savings were required to offset the impact of increased statutory service demand. Reassurance was given that residents; voluntary, community and social enterprises; and key stakeholders were consulted on savings proposals. Concerning the relationship between the revenue budget and reserves, he confirmed that it was planned for reserves to be used to reduce level of savings required for the coming year only. He explained that it was the first time the general reserve had been drawn on to balance the budget in over twenty years. It was confirmed that a £12m risk reserve was contained within the budget proposal. He stressed that the proposed savings had to be achieved to ensure the Council’s financial stability. The proposal to increase Council Tax by 4.99% was highlighted, with it noted that whilst the administration was reluctant to propose the maximum possible increase, it was necessary to meet budget demands and reflected the majority of upper tier authorities nationally, who were also pursuing the maximum increase. Concerning the Future Assets Programme, he informed Members that KCC was not alone in its review and reduction of its estate to maintain financial resilience. He concluded by stating that it was the intention to make savings in areas which had the least impact on residents, with proposed savings having been reviewed and discussed with Cabinet Members, Corporate Directors and Finance.


2.    Mr Gough reminded the Committee of his letter, with the Leader of Hampshire County Council, to Government which urged for urgent action to address the looming financial crisis facing upper tier authorities, noting that whilst it contributed to a better settlement, future financial risks which effected all authorities remained. He stressed that increased demand and costs to adult social care, SEN and home to school transport, as well as large infrastructure demands, remained the Council’s core financial pressures.


3.    Regarding the proposed revenue budget for Integrated Children’s Services Mrs Chandler explained that the budget uplift reflected the need to accommodate increased service demand and case complexity. She assured Members that resourcing statutory services was the Council’s priority and had influenced where savings were proposed. It was confirmed that savings were connected to reviews, with further details to be fully identified.


4.    Concerning the Public Health Grant, Mrs Bell confirmed that the draft budget included a prediction, as KCC’s allocation was yet to be agreed by government.


5.    Mr Murphy summarised the key proposed savings within Economic Development which included reduced contributions to key contracted partners as well as additional income of £200,000 per annum for the next 3 years through the No Use Empty scheme.


6.    Mr Brazier provided an overview of the capital programme within Highways and Transport, with it noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.


SEND Sub-Committee Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 220 KB

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1.    Following its decision to establish a Sub-Committee to consider KCC’s SEND provision, the Committee received a report which further detailed the Sub-Committee’s scope, membership, responsibilities and proposed terms of reference.


2.    Mr Cook informed members that, in addition to the membership, there was an expectation that Kent Parents and Carers Together (PACT) representatives would be invited to attend all meetings of the Sub-Committee. He confirmed that this would be with observer status, without voting rights, and that their attendance was at the Sub-Committee Chairman’s discretion. He shared comments made by Kent PACT’s Chair which emphasised the importance of the Sub-Committee receiving the perspectives of service users from parents and carers of SEND children and young people.


3.    Following questions from the Committee, Mr Cook clarified that:

a.    the Sub-Committee would appoint a Chairman at its first meeting;

b.    Scrutiny Committee was not delegating the responsibility for call-in to the Sub-Committee, including when a called-in decision related to SEND; and

c.    the decision to retain or disband the Sub-Committee would be taken as part of Scrutiny Committee’s review after one-year.


4.    Mr Watts assured Members that the Sub-Committee would not preclude Governance and Audit Committee from exercising its functions.


5.    In response to a question from a Member, Mr Watts confirmed the establishment of the Sub-Committee would not be accompanied by additional resource. He explained that it was Scrutiny Committee’s responsibility to decide how the resource allocation was used to exercise its functions, with regard to the establishment of time limited reviews or sub-committees. It was confirmed that the Short Focused Inquiry work programme would be paused until the Sub-Committee ceased or there was an increase in resources.


6.    A Member asked that the minutes of the Sub-Committee be reported to Scrutiny Committee.


a)    approve the proposed Terms of Reference of the SEND Sub-Committee;

b)    agree to review the Sub-Committee after one year; and

c)    note the suggested arrangements for progression, subject to engagement with the Sub-Committee Chair and Spokespeople designate.


Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People - Evaluation of Programme pdf icon PDF 943 KB

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1.    Members received a report which set out the achievements of the eighteenth month Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People Programme which concluded on 31 August 2022.


2.    Mrs Chandler gave an overview of the Reconnect Programme’s performance against its four aims, to reconnect children and young people with: learning missed; health and happiness; sports, activities and the outdoors; family and community; and friends. She thanked David Adams for directing the Programme and enabling it to achieve positive outcomes.


3.    Members commended the Programme’s proactive approach to mitigating the long-term effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and young people in Kent. The positive impact on wellbeing and feedback received from children, young people, parents and carers were praised.


4.    Mr Cooke moved and Mr Barrington-King seconded an amendment that the Scrutiny Committee ‘note the report and congratulate the officers involved for their delivery of the Reconnect Programme.’


5.    The amendment passed without a vote.

RESOLVED to note the report and congratulate the officers involved for their delivery of the Reconnect Programme.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 187 KB

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RESOLVED to note the report.