Report of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) Working Group
The Scrutiny and Support Manager introduced the report which was the result of the MTFS Working Groups work, scrutinising the proposed budget pressures. The Committee were requested to ratify the report before it could be presented to the Cabinet on 30 January 2019.
The Chairman thanked the officers for their help and support in writing the report and to the Members who had contributed to it. Reference was made to the valuable contribution made in relation to the School Crossing Patrols and the suggestion that a complete review of actual requirements in terms of location and ensuring road safety should take place prior to any reductions.
Attention was drawn to the typing error on page 12 of the report, paragraph one, which stated £3.5m financial shortfall which should have been £35m.
A Member asked what a Parish Social Plan was. They also felt that working with Districts and Boroughs when considering house building as mentioned in the report, would be hard to achieve. In response, it was explained that Parish Social Plans worked alongside the Borough and District Neighbourhood Plans.
A Member asked how the health care and wellbeing purchase of care beds was progressing and emphasised the need to know the cost and how it will be monitored as this was a significant element of spend. In response, the Committee was informed that the Cabinets Executive Response would pick this up and would be reported back to the Committee.
With reference to the point made in paragraph 99 of the report, a Member felt that the Community Support proposal was counter production and that the Council needed to know what budgets were in place to support that as if contracts were not continuing due to budget cuts, there would be a need to know of any detrimental effects on the Council. In response, the Committee was informed that this was a recommendation and again, that a response would be included in the Cabinets Executive Response.
The Committee felt that the knowledge and skills of local District, Borough and Parish Members were not used effectively and that they should be advocates and relationships utilised more effectively to understand the localities. The Committee agreed with this. It was however, acknowledged that there could be difficulties in working between Parishes and the County and some areas of the County did not have Parish Councils.
A question was asked about the Community Investment Fund, what it was and how this would be developed to support the voluntary sector.
A Member was concerned over the fragility of the Care Home market, particularly as the current North Staffordshire NHS Consultation was proposing the block booking of 55 beds in the private sector which would reduce the number of good quality beds to commission.
A Member felt that Parish Councils did want to help but needed some direction on what we want them to help with.
The report contained reference to monitoring and the constant assessment needed to achieve the savings proposed and asked how this would be done to keep the budget on track. In response, it was explained that in previous years the MTFS working group had operated from September to January, however, it was now felt that its work should be extended and should include the monitoring of the plan (recommendation 10).
A Member asked how contracts such as those with AMEY and Entrust were monitored? The Committee was informed that the Prosperous Select Committee would be including this issue in their work programme.
Referring to the discussion on Parish Councils, it was felt that they were often able to make and implement decisions much quicker than the County Council and this flexibility should be used to work together to get the best out of limited resource. In response, the Chairman agreed that a better understanding of all tiers of local government were required. It was felt that often a little flexibility and partnership working could overcome barriers.
A Member asked if the Children’s Services Strategic restructure which had been proposed approximately two years ago but had been delayed, had had an impact on the budget and had the Working Group looked at this? In response, members were referred to paragraphs 51, 52 and 53 of the report. It was agreed that the MTFS Working Group would follow this up.
A question was asked on how the commercial aspiration of the Council asset disposal and realisation that would support transformation was being progressed. In response, the Chairman felt that more work needed to be done in this area and an item would be include in this Committees Work Programme.
RESOLVED: That the report be approved and submitted to Cabinet on 30 January 2019 for consideration.