The Schools Forum received the Schools Budget 2021/22: Final Outturn Report of the County Treasurer. The following points were discussed:
· It was noted that the outturn position for 2021/22 was a £6.4m variance (2.2%) overspend on planned expenditure across all services.
· The Individual Schools Budget (ISB) was break even. This outturn related to budgets allocated to individual schools through the funding formula.
· The High Needs service had overspent by £8.2m (11.8%). The pressure areas in the service were: top up budgets which was overspent by £3.7m (mainstream £1.6m, special schools £2.1m), and expenditure on independent special schools which was overspent by £5.8m. This was offset by an underspend on Pupil Referral Unit top ups of c £1m and other SEN support services/Government grant of £0.3m.
· The Early Years budget was overspent by c £0.2m (0.4%); this included the redistribution of unspent 2020/21 contingency of £0.2m.
· The Central and de-delegated items had underspent by £2m (17.6% of the budget).
· As a result of the on-going overspend in the High Needs Block over the last few years the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) reserve had been fully depleted. There was no longer a buffer to fund this on-going pressure. At the end of 2020/21, the DSG reserve had gone into deficit by c £2m. At the end of the financial year 2021/22 the DSG reserve deficit is £8.6m, an increase of 6.6m.
· As of 31st March 2022, maintained schools held reserves of £24.3m; an increase of £1.8m from the position on 31st March 2021. There continued to be a number of approved licenced deficits (12 schools, with a value of £1.5m), a similar amount to the previous financial year.
In response to a question relating to the maintained school’s reserves, it was suggested that the main reason for the increase of £1.8m could possibly be as a result of schools receiving Covid revenues in the past that have been unused and are still being retained in school balances.
It was raised that the report suggested a deficit management plan report would come forward to the Autumn Term meeting and it was requested that this be included in the Work Programme.
It was confirmed that a meeting had taken place with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and not only don’t we qualify for the Safety Valve scheme neither do we qualify for the Delivering Better Value scheme. Whilst the deficit was not significant compared to other authorities, it was a significant challenge to the authority.
In response to a question relating to the thresholds for the Safety Valve scheme and the Delivering Better Value schemes, it was confirmed that there weren’t any published thresholds, but the Government were working with authorities where the deficit sat somewhere in the region of 5% of the DSG. Staffordshire was currently within 1% of the DSG.
In response to a question relating to whether the Education and Skills Funding Agency wipe deficits or work towards recovery plans, it was suggested that some money was put towards deficits, but authorities had to demonstrate they were able to balance “in-year books” before this would happen.
In response to a question relating to the membership of the deficit management plan group, it was confirmed that this was the responsibility of the Local Authority, but it would be shared with the Working Group and would be brought to the next Schools Forum meeting.
In response to a question relating to the proportions of spend in terms of sectors that funding is allocated to, and the ambitions to bring them into a particular percentage, it was confirmed that, in terms of mitigation, the deficit management plan would look at the work that had been undertaken previously in terms of the youngsters that are placed in the independent sector.
In response to the timescales of a consultation currently being undertaken to look at additional types of provision and resource spaces etc., it was confirmed that as part of this process there was a review of specialist provision. In terms of timeframes for putting it in place it was important to ensure that the review was undertaken so that the all the needs of the system were understood, it was suggested that this wouldn’t necessarily be for the academic year.
In response to a question relating to the timescale for reviewing and feeding back on how SEND Hubs are working, it was confirmed that the review was taking place and a report would be brought back when it was ready in the future.
a. That the 2021/22 Schools Budget financial outturn be noted.
b. That the deficit management plan report be included in the Autumn Term meeting.
c. That a report relating reviewing the SEND Hubs will be brought back to a future meeting.