Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 15th January, 2019 10.00 am

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

Contact: Joel Cook/Anna Taylor  03000 416892/416478

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

43.

Introduction/Webcast Announcement

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.    In response to a query the Chairman confirmed that the meeting of Scrutiny Committee would be streamed live over the internet. 

44.

Apologies and Substitutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.    Apologies had been received from Mr Oakford (Mrs Crabtree was substituting) and the two Parent Governors Mr Garsed and Mr Roy.

45.

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.    Dr Sullivan declared an interest in the Budget item as her husband was employed as an Early Help Worker for Kent County Council. 

46.

Minutes of the meeting held on 8 November 2018 pdf icon PDF 112 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.            In response to a query the Chairman confirmed that information relating to the Pupil Premium Select Committee, which was due to be circulated to the Committee, would be chased up outside of the meeting.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 8 November 2018 were a correct record and that they be signed by the Chairman. 

47.

Draft 2019/20 Budget and the Medium Term Financial Plan. Please can Members bring their copy of the Budget Book 2019-20 to the meeting pdf icon PDF 962 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Carter (Leader of the Council), Mrs Crabtree (Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance and Traded Services), Zena Cooke (Corporate Director Finance) and Dave Shipton (Head of Finance, Policy, Planning and Strategy) were present for this item. 

 

1.            Mrs Crabtree introduced this item and explained that over the last 10 years it had become increasingly difficult to balance the books, the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) was shrinking, costs were increasing and, for example, there was a rising number of elderly people in Kent many with complex needs and in need of the services of KCC.  In the previous 10 years savings in excess of £600million had been made, the savings for 19/20 were around £43million and the council was having to propose increases to Council Tax and looking at the discretionary services provided. 

 

2.            Members received a presentation from Mr Shipton on the Draft 19/20 Budget.  This presentation can be viewed online via this link or at https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=752&MId=7911&Ver=4

 

3.            In response to a query about the Kent Business Rate Pool Mr Shipton confirmed that Dover and Sevenoaks Councils were not part of the pool for valid reasons regarding the tax base in each region. 

 

4.            A Member asked for confirmation about the decline in the rate of growth of the Council Tax base.  This was due to a combination of new houses (many single occupancy households) and changes in the council tax discounts.

 

5.              In response to a question about the average council tax collection rate Mr Shipton stated that it was 98.5% across all 12 districts.  The collection rate of some districts was significantly lower than that average and the majority collected 99%.  There had not been a noticeable decline in the past year, this was likely to be significant in future years and the final tax base estimate had not yet been provided by the district councils. 

 

6.            Members discussed the use of reserves and the balance between using reserves and making savings; Kent had a debt to reserve ratio of 107%.  Mr Shipton explained that when last year’s budget was set it was on the basis that the £10.8m wouldn’t be drawn down in 18/19 but it would be drawn down in 19/20, Members had agreed at County Council in July that a further draw down from reserves would occur to address the pothole situation because of the severity of the 2017/18 winter.  Mr Shipton explained that there was no definitive ratio with regards to reserves/debt, this had been used in the past to test the financial resilience of authorities, it was often difficult to repay debt early and this sometimes carried excessive penalty clauses.  Mr Shipton offered to circulate a copy of the reserves/debt graph with a third dimension showing the relative change from one year to another of each authority. 

 

7.              The Leader explained that there were encouraging signs with the fair funding model from 2020/21, it was hoped that a significant proportion of the Council’s debt would be funded through the fair funding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC): Care Leaver Funding Shortfall 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Gough, Cabinet Member for Children’ Young People and Education and Sarah Hammond, Director of Specialist Children’s Services were present for this item.

 

1.            Mr Gough referred to a previous question about the numbers of UASC in Kent and what was the composition of the young people.  This began in 2015 when there was a large inflow, this number has since diminished. The number of referrals in 2015 was 948, there had been an overall reduction in Asylum Seekers across Europe and a reduction of numbers coming into Kent since that time, with 388 in 2016 and 214 in 2017.  Overall during 2018 there were 172 referrals, this had picked up slightly at the end of 2018 but numbers were below that seen previously. 315 young people were transferred out of Kent under the National Transfer Scheme, meanwhile many of the young people who remained turned 18 and some 21.  There were currently 248 UASC in care and 911 care leavers.  The shortfall between the costs to support UASC and the funding grant was an issue which had been running for many years.  The largest funding gap was for care leavers, the key issues being a large cohort whose status had not yet been determined, and the second being the period during which KCC had duties to care leavers being extended by legislation from 21 to 25years.  The grant for this from the DfE was based on an assumption of between 11-15% of young people (for the total cohort) taking this up and in fact this had been around 100% for UASC (and 50% for citizen young people). 

 

2.            Sarah Hammond explained that regarding under 18s, even if young people were refused asylum status they would be given leave to remain; they were lawfully allowed to remain in the country.  Regarding education, universities would offer places to anyone who was lawfully in the UK.  All care leavers were able to apply for grants because they were lawfully in the UK and the Council did not pay university fees because the students were able to access fees alongside other citizens.

 

3.              In response to a question about travel costs (para 3.11 of the report) Sarah Hammond explained that claims had been submitted to the Home Office for the journeys that young people made to have their immigration interviews.  The view of the Home Office was that the grant that they received should include those costs, KCC’s view was that if young people were living in Shepway or Dover the costs to travel to London were disproportionate to those living in London and were able to access the main immigration centre in Croydon much more cheaply. 

 

4.            Regarding interpreter costs any available aids and assistance available were used.  The challenge was that many meetings carried a large legal responsibility (age assessment, human rights assessment for example) and it was critical both for the young people and for the social workers that there was no window of doubt about what a young person  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.

49.

Risk: CRR0045 - Effectiveness of Governance within a Member-led Authority. pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Miss Carey (Cabinet Member for Customers, Communications and Performance), Ben Watts (General Counsel), David Whittle (Director of Strategy, Policy, Relationships and Corporate Assurance), and Mark Scrivener (Corporate Risk Manager) were present for this item.

 

1.            Ben Watts introduced this item; the risk was made up of two elements; likelihood and impact score.  This risk had a score of 5 for impact and likelihood score of 2.  The risk had an overall score of 10 but was still marked as ‘unlikely’ at the current time.  The risk related to Member Governance and the important role of all Members of the Council, it was a whole system risk.  It was vital that Member risk was identified and scrutinised.  Mr Watts was supportive of this risk and was supportive of Kent being an authority where the risk appeared on the register and could be discussed.  Mr Watts referred to Article 2 of the constitution and the key role of members in Kent in relation to governance framework. 

 

2.            A Member questioned the likelihood and impact, and in addition the Member queried whether the risk should address the actions or inactions of officers in relation to officers not being responsible to a Member.  Mr Watts explained that the impact of the risk was high, and likelihood was low resulting in the medium risk.  Within the constitution there was the provision for chief officers to seek written direction from Executive Members, changes had also been made around delegations to officers.

 

3.            David Whittle explained to Members that the risk had been put into the corporate risk register following discussions had at the Autumn Refresh around the issues at Northamptonshire and, following the Max Caller report, the need for strong governance.  It was felt appropriate to put this risk in; the team would always listen to feedback and in relation to the balance between member and officer responsibility this would be taken on board, however it was referenced within the cause of the risk section.  Mr Whittle would consider whether this needed to be strengthened with officers outside of the meeting.  Mr Scrivener explained that the impact was a 5 out of 5 score, the consequences were high and combined with the likelihood it became a medium risk. 

 

4.            A Member commented that there were instances where Members did not have sufficient knowledge of the background in making decisions.  It was considered that the wording needed to be tightened to ensure that this was clear. 

 

5.            A Member stated that she considered that KCC was an authority led by a small group of Members.  It was important that the authority had a constitution which reflected all kinds of potential proportionality.  She requested reference within the document of the understanding that the decision making group reflected all parties that were in the controlling group.  In relation to the ability of officers to seek written authority from Executive Members the Member asked how often this had been used?  Mr Watts confirmed that no officer had yet to ask  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.