Agenda item

2023/24 General Fund Revenue Budget Monitoring Report - Month 6 Q2 

To consider the report


The Audit Committee noted the contents of the report considered at the Executive in December 2023.


The Audit Committee received a presentation from the Service Director – Finance and Procurement, Nicola Hix.


The Service Director – Finance and Procurement, Nicola Hix, presented the report,  highlighting: that the Council is projecting an overspend of £18.7m for 2023/24, an improvement of £8.6m from the previous forecast of £27.3m in month five; that the forecast overspend for the year is driven by Adults and Childrens Services; that the report is the first budget monitoring report in the new format using Solver and MS Dynamics; that the report was considered at the 6 December 2023 Executive meeting; summarised the use and operation of the control boards and panel placements in Social Care; the spend control board limit of £100 and the resource pressure; the implementation of a no purchase order, no pay policy and the significant change in process; the continued work to improve reporting, including the formatting of reports, the addition of actuals and the break down of income and expenditure for more clarity to Members; and summarised the RAG status on individual services.


Written questions submitted in advance of the meeting from Audit Committee co-opted member, Lindy Jansen van Vuuren:


Adult Services, the Executive Director - Adult Social Care, Mel Lock, responded in the meeting:

        Clarification of the overspend in commissioning - clarified the overspend in Adult Services Commissioning as £1.1m.

        What is the £5 million saving my life my future that will not be achieved? - that the £5m savings won’t be achieved in the first year, with the savings of £10m to be achieved over a two year period and currently on track.

        Direct payments table - +/1 1070 x £354 x 52 = £19.7m versus full year projection of £14.2m? Difference £5.5 million difference? - that the difference relates to client contribution and income from services following a financial and benefit assessment on individuals and the unspent surplus received back to the Council.

        What are the four main pressure areas, only three listed areas?  Confirmed the four main pressure areas: residential, nursing, supported living and homecare.

        Older People Mental Health (OPMH) nursing placements, table = 185 x £1 144 x 52 = £11 million versus £14.6 million full year projection? Why £3.6 million difference? - provided an explanation of OMPH and the complexities of support provided, with the graph on page 36 of the report showing the average cost, however, due to complexities and the need for 121 support, the total of £14.2m included the additional spend on 121 support.

        Do nursing placements relate to Learning Disabilities? Advised that this does not include mental health or learning disability, there can be changes for older people with dementia and that there can be dual diagnosis.

        Well done on the mitigations listed; however, it would be good to see the financial impact of these mitigations and criteria used to measure the effectiveness. For instance, ‘Review all high cost / complex placements’ - how many high cost / complex placements were there in the beginning of the year, how many were reviewed in Q1 and Q2, how many are planned to be reviewed in Q3 and Q4? Did we realise any savings from the placements reviewed?  For instance, ‘Review void costs’ - Document a list of void costs, reviews done and outcome? So basically, to see more action-orientated mitigations and its outcome. Are they making a difference in realising savings?  - explained the £9.3m mitigations, including the £1.4m complex placements saving and £0.3m void costs and advised of the process of monitoring actions of efficiency and mitigation regarding Adult Social Care spending.


Children Services - the Service Director - Finance and Procurement, Nicola Hix, responded in the meeting:


        The difference in internal fostering projected underspend of £1.3 million and table = £0.7 million in the report – that the difference represented by the £0.6 pressure and calculated and net figure £0.7.

        The difference in the external placements month variance is £11.6m, not £10.4m, which is the difference between gross and net, with £11.6m being the gross pressure and £10.4 being the net pressure.

        Are the Local Authority maintained school’s revenue reserves and DSG reserves, are these offset against the expenditure on page 39 of the report? -  DSG reserves do not offset the expenditure on page 39, the issue is reported separately.


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


        Should the minimum level of £100 for the control spend board be set higher, considering the impact on resources following the volume of work? – The Service Director, Finance and Procurement, Nicola Hix, explained that while the volume of orders was high, patterns of use had been established and could be acted upon in the new year to target relevant areas and provide guidance. The Executive Director Resources and Corporate Services, Jason Vaughan, further added that £100 had been chosen in line with what Commissioners would do if a S114 had been issued, that areas of focus had been identified and the positive impact on the changing behaviours in the Council, with the and spending less money as a result, the ability to readjust the figure going forward. 

        The tracking of the challenge or reduction in spend.

        Consider report writing to include explanations of tables in the reports, explanations of the differences in tables and clarity regarding improvements of projected overspends.

        Children’s and Adult’s budget and outturn information, 2015 – current projected figures.


        That the retrospective report and the potential changes of reporting going forward using the solver budgeting tool and review of the democratic calendar.

        The acknowledgement of the challenges and pressure across the Council and the concern of resilience and numbers of staff.


The Executive Director – Adult Social Care, Mel Lock, responded:


        Home placement, level of care figures and how many people need to be assessed each year – national and local pressure, the high number of outstanding assessments and annual reviews, both nationally and locally, that there is a pressure and challenge as there is not enough social workers or occupational therapist nationally or locally, and the use of trusted assessors to manage the process.

        How does the Council manage self funding and contribution towards care takes place under the relevant Government criteria - explained the review, checking and management process through the financial benefit team and the online system used to manage the process.

        The checks, balances and monitoring process to ensure that people are getting the right amount of support hours and the increase in the number of hours that people are being supported in their own homes from 12 hours average to a rise of 14 hours, with December showing 14.9 hours.

        Queried whether the budget for 2023/24 had been set correctly, with an overspend by month 1? The budget set was tight but achievable, with the dramatic growth of the cost of care and the cost of living challenges impacting the budget, with the look to rebase the budget going forward.

        Does Adult Services have the right level of support from the finance team? –good support, however, there is a risk should the service manager not be available, the team are gaining experience to have the depth to deliver.


The Executive Director, Children, Families and Education, Claire Winter, responded:

        Queried whether the budget for 2023/24 had been set correctly, with an overspend by month 1? The budget set was tight but achievable, with the demography and the landscape of the care market significantly changing due to the increasing complexity of children's needs, partly as a result of the pandemic, the increased costs above CPI - replicated nationally, further advised of the £2m savings delivered through the development of the strategic partnership with the Shaw Trust to deliver children's homes, fostering and therapeutic education provision for the most complex children.

        Does Children Services have the right level of support from the finance team? – that an external consultant for demand modelling had been appointed to support the Childrens Finance team and to help them develop their experience and skill sets to better understand demand modelling for the future.

The Executive Director, Resources and Corporate Services, Jason Vaughan, responded:


        Ways in which the Audit Committee can aid the Finance Team to look to provide assurance budget and saving setting and the welcome improved reporting using Solver – to reflect and advise the Audit Committee.


        The visibility of and opportunities for income generation –to look to take an item through the Scrutiny Committee – Corporate and Resources.


        The performance of Transformation savings, delivery of savings and concerns of the level of the budget set for 2023/24 – advised that the profile of the Newton savings within Adult Services affects the forecast, but that £10 to be delivered over two years, the challenges of the LGR savings through restructure, further advised on the expectations that if savings cannot be delivered alternatives and contingencies to be sought, look to improve and strengthen monitoring of savings through Scrutiny Committees.

The Service Director – Finance and Procurement, Nicola Hix, responded:

        Asked for an explanation on overstated income budgets – advised that overstated income budgets from legacy councils had been fed through into the amalgamated budget, particularly in relation to income from the commercial investment portfolio and dividend income from those investments.

        Acknowledgment of the challenge of aligning the five predecessors Council and asked for assurance of the alignment of the budget - advised of the challenges, including the alignment of different structure, and the finance system., in a strong position with further work to continue with each service budget information, appointed our new head of business, partnering is looking at how that can be aligned even further.


The Audit Committee noted the contents of the report considered at the Executive in December 2023.

Supporting documents: