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Agenda item

Difficult Decisions 2019/20

To consider the report of the Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance

Minutes:

(Members declarations in relation to this item are set out in Minute 24 above)

 

The Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health and Safety and Governance submitted a report (HF/140/18s) asking Members to scrutinise the specific budget proposals for 2019/20.

 

The Lead Member presented the report and the following points were raised during the ensuing debate:

 

Library Service

·         Acknowledgement of the importance of the Library Service within communities and reassurance sought in relation to carrying out a full review of the Service.

·         Suggestion that it was not expected there would be a reduction in opening hours in order to make the Service more sustainable.

·         Clarification sought regarding the timeframe for carrying out a review of the Service.  It was noted that a decision on the timing of a full review would be made in early 2019.

·         Confirmation that the Library Service is the largest discretionary Service in terms of finance provided by the Council and the proposed review could realise a saving of 10% of the existing budget.

·         Information requested regarding the monies owed for overdue book loans.

 

Transport to Church Schools

·         Concern that whilst this was a discretionary service, a number of Members felt that parents should be given their choice of preferred School.

·         Concern that if parents could not afford to pay for transportation to a faith school, the number of pupils at the School would diminish; this would then have an impact on other Schools which could become oversubscribed as children attended their nearest School.  Consideration would therefore need to be given to the impact on all schools in terms of their future viability and the capacity of the schools.

·         Clarification sought regarding the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure and how it linked to welsh medium education transport.  Officers confirmed that the Measure stated “When deciding which schools are the nearest suitable schools for learners in the area, local authorities and Welsh Ministers have a duty under Section 10 of the Measure to promote access to education and training through the medium of Welsh”.

·         Transport to Church Schools, like Welsh Medium Schools, was non-statutory.

·         Clarification sought regarding how the proposals would impact on children living in village locations who attended Church Schools.

·         Confirmation that any changes would be implemented over a staggered period.

·         Concern that the Environment Department were making the proposed changes, but the impact would be on the Education Department.

·         Importance of ensuring that all legal obligations in terms of providing transport were being met.

·         Concern at the potential for possible legal challenges arising from any changes in provision.

·         Suggestion that if a review were to be undertaken, it would provide the opportunity to look at different models of making home to school transport more sustainable.

 

Education Effectiveness - Residual Music Service

·         Confirmation that the music provision was provided by the Wrexham Music Co-op who were in direct contact with Schools.

·         Early indications showed that the Service was performing well and the Head of the Wrexham Music Co-operative had confirmed that she would be providing information that would be presented to Members in an information report at the end of the school year.

·         Confirmation that there were currently 160 FSM pupils accessing the provision compared to 180 last year.  Therefore, any FSM pupil who wished to access the Service were doing so.

 

School Budgets

·         Confirmation that it was proposed to increase school budgets by 3% which was a very positive proposal.

·         Concern at the impact to Secondary Schools budget and the number of Schools in a licensed deficit position.

·         Reassurance by Officers that although Secondary Schools across Wales were struggling, Wrexham were in better situation than the average.

·         Suggestion that the licensed deficit process could be extended to a 5 year period. 

·         Confirmation that Schools were not charged an interest fee for being in licensed deficit.

 

AGREED –

 

(i)         To support the review with an expectation that the existing proposed level of service be maintained when looking at the model for provision.

 

(ii)        Not to support the review of Transport to Church Schools.

 

(iii)       If a review is undertaken, that this be of the whole home to school transport service.

 

(iv)      That the proposals in respect of the Education Department – Review Admin Support be noted.

 

(v)       That the proposals in respect of the Education Effectiveness – Residual Music Service be noted.

 

(vi)      That the impact of proposed school budgets be noted.

 

(vii)     That concern be expressed regarding the stability of Secondary Schools given the increase in licensed deficits.

Supporting documents: