Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Guildhall
Contact: Suzanne Price Scrutiny Facilitator
Apologies for absence
An apology for absence was submitted on behalf of Councillor Gwenfair Jones.
Declarations of personal interests, if any
Members are reminded of their responsibility, under Paragraph 11 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, to declare the existence and nature of any personal interest in respect of any of the business to be transacted at this meeting
Members were reminded of their responsibility, under Article 11 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, to declare any interests in relation to any of the business to be transacted at this meeting. The following declarations were made:
Agenda Item 5 – Councillors Bryan Apsley, Adrienne Jeorrett and John Pritchard – Personal and Prejudicial – School Governor.
The Councillors remained in the meeting and claimed an exemption under Article 12(2) of the Members’ Code of Conduct taking part in the discussion and voting thereon.
To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 23 January 2019
AGREED - That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 23 January 2019 be signed as a correct record.
To consider the report of the Head of Finance
The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/14/19s) to assist the Committee in considering and agreeing its work programme.
The Scrutiny Facilitator drew Members’ attention to the following matters:
· In order to balance the Committee’s workload the Chair and Facilitator would review the items scheduled for the June and July meeting.
· Prior to the Committee’s scrutiny of the Public Service Board Annual Report in September a training session would be arranged for Committee members.
· The Topic Selection Form at Appendix 1 relating to Recruitment and Retention of staff at Wrexham Council which was agreed by Committee.
· The scope document of the Future Use of Groves School Building Task and Finish Group at Appendix 2 of the report which was noted.
· Prior to the Committee’s consideration next month of the Council’s Preparations for Brexit website information, including the WLGA briefing for local authority scrutiny committees to help with preparations for the implications of Brexit, would be circulated to Committee members.
AGREED – That the work programme be agreed.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance
(Members declarations of interest in relation to this item are set out in Minute 43 above)
The Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance submitted and presented a report (HF/07/19s) to inform Members of the Council’s current budgetary position following eight months of the 2018/19 financial year. The Lead Member thanked the Head of Finance and his team for their hard work in carefully scrutinising and managing the Council’s budget. Also the work of school governors and school staff in managing their budgets was commended.
In considering the report the following matters were highlighted by the Committee:
Environment and Planning
· Noted that the department was anticipating a net overspend of £1200k in the areas of Refuse Collection and Disposal, arising from a further reduction in Welsh Government grant in 2018/19, and Car Parks. A deficit recovery plan was in place which aimed to make savings of approximately £305k.
· It was reported that the number of agency workers employed by the Department had significantly reduced. It was anticipated that reduced frequency of winter garden waste collection would further positively impact on staffing levels.
· It was noted that the Leader had asked the Head of Department to share the commissioned report on the effectiveness of the Environment department with members as soon as possible.
· Confirmed that the Waste PFI contract was running on budget.
· An increase in the costs associated with SEN Transport was anticipated in the next financial year.
Children’s Social Care
· The Department was facing an unprecedented increase in Looked After Children cases. The Lead Member expressed his thanks to the department for the work undertaken under significant pressure.
· Members noted that savings had been made as a result of staff vacancy management.
· Concern was expressed regarding the variance in school balances.
· Reported that the latest projections included in the report indicated a small improvement. It was forecasted that overall school balances would be in the region of £564k for the year.
· Noted that the Head of Education and Head of Finance visited schools operating under a licensed deficit recovery plan to provide appropriate challenge and support.
· The Lead Member for Education reminded the Committee that the 2019/20 budget, recently approved by the Council, included a 3% uplift for schools, however schools still faced pressures which may require some to revise their expenditure plans. Members were informed that the WLGA and Council leaders were lobbying Welsh Government to request that schools be recompensed to meet the additional pressure arising from teachers’ pensions.
· Consideration was given to the frequency of reporting and monitoring budget arrangements by this Committee.
(i) That the report be noted.
(ii) That in future this Committee receives a budget monitoring report in October and a budget outturn report in May, and that the January budget monitoring report be removed from the work programme.