Agenda item

2023/24 Children's Services - Budget Monitoring

The 2023/24 budget monitoring slides in the PowerPoint presentation will be led by the Council’s Strategic Manager, Finance Business Partnering, Sian Kenny.


The Committee received a presentation on the 23/24 Children’s Services budget and a verbal update on the month 6 position, which is showing a slight increase in forecast overspend (£11.8m to £12.4m).


A key area of deficit is the DSG, High Needs Block and will include more detail on this and the 2 areas overspending in the next update to the Committee.


Also requested a briefing note explaining differences between ‘mainstream home to school transport’ and ‘SEND transport’ (statutory / non statutory elements).


The Committee received a presentation from the Council’s Strategic manager, Finance Business Partnering, Sian Kenny on the 2023/24 Children’s Services budget as at month 5 and additionally provided a verbal update on the month 6 position.


Ms Kenny outlined that the 2023/24 Children’s Services (General Fund) has a net budget of £123.1m and has forecast overspend of £11.8m at the end of month 5 (9.6% of budget). The month 6 position is showing a slight increase, at £12.4m.


Ms Kenny highlighted the key pressures and key cost drivers, in relation to:

(a)  external placements pressures (£10.1m overspend) (slides 3 – 4):

  • unregistered placements £4.2m – although numbers are reducing, almost three quarters of the annual 2,190 budgeted placement days have been provided in the first 5 months of the financial year.
  • residential placements £4.2m – increase in placements due to complexity of children, moves from unregistered placements and lack of sufficiency within fostering both internally and in the external market.

(b)  Home to school SEND Transport (£1.7m) (slide 5):

  • demand for SEND Transport has doubled since 2018 - significant factor is the rise in number of children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) attending a school other than their local mainstream setting.
  • passenger costs increasing by 10%.
  • increasing cost of contracted supply.


The Dedicated Schools Grant (DGS) which has £15.6m forecast in year deficit; cumulative £37.5m deficit (slide 6) and Ms Kenny highlighted the key cost drivers – High Needs Block and the Schools Block (slide 7).


The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

  • how and where is the DSG reported – this is reported in the Schools Forum and to the Executive in the regular budget monitoring reports – there are 3 sections to this report. The DSG is a ring-fenced grant which is allocated in four blocks (Schools, Early Years, High Needs, central Schools Servies). The key risks in the High Needs Block are increased demand for EHCP’s, sufficiency of provision of social, emotional and mental health support.
  • Position regarding LA maintained schools revenue budgets / reserves – these reserves are regarded as being under the control of the individual schools and not the local authority and are therefore not included in the calculation of the overall DSG reserves.
  • Detail on slide 2 – confirmed information is correct, including areas reporting ‘0.0’ variances. The committee still needs to see the budget information across all lines (e.g. fostering & permanence; leaving care) to show the full position.
  • Explanation of difference between ‘mainstream home to school transport’ and ‘SEND transport’ (statutory / non statutory elements)


Claire Winter, the Council’s Executive Director, Children, Families and Education explained that ‘mainstream’ is essentially children being transported to / from school, as the closest school with an available place is further away than the statutory walking distance for their age or it’s deemed as an unsafe walking route to school or to pupils from low-income families (in certain circumstances). This budget is easier to predict and is relatively stable as not many children move school during a school year.


With regard to SEND transport, if a child is of statutory age and has an EHCP the local authority has a statutory duty to in law to provide travel assistance if they attend the nearest, appropriate school for their age and needs and live beyond the statutory walking distance for their age (there are certain exceptions).  The budget costs vary more as there is greater movement / fluctuation with this cohort as pupils move from mainstream provision to special provision, new assessments come in and so on and some pupils will require single person transport provision.


The Committee discussed what information will be provided to the December meeting, and when this will be provided, so the Committee can use its time in best way. The Chair advised that he has written to the Executive for clarity on expectations.


A key area of deficit is the DSG, High Needs Block and the next update will  include more detail on this and the 2 areas overspending.


The Chair thanked officers for their work and the Committee noted the update.