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Contact: Timothy Andrew Email: (email@example.com) (020 8314 7916)
That the minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 be agreed as an accurate record.
1.1 Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 be agreed as an accurate record.
2.1 There were none.
Responses from Mayor and Cabinet
There are none.
3.1 There were none.
That the report be noted.
4.1 Nick Penny (Head of Service Finance) introduced the report – noting the pressures facing the Council – including consistent overspending in a number of services (children’s social care, temporary accommodation, home to school transport, legal services and adult social care). Nick also highlighted overspending in the dedicated schools grant and the housing revenue account.
4.2 Nick Penny, Pinaki Ghosal (Executive Director for Children and Young People), David Austin (Acting Director for Corporate Resources) and Gillian Douglas (Executive Director for Housing) responded to questions from the Committee – the following key points were noted:
· Negotiating with care providers in the private sector for children’s social care was very difficult.
· The Council was increasingly being forced to pay more than it deemed necessary for social care placements due to the lack of alternatives.
· Where possible, the Council negotiated with providers to manage these costs down.
· In the past ten years there had been a (national) average increase in education health and care plans of ten percent. This led to greater costs for home to school transport. Work was taking place to manage these costs.
· The shortfall in income from leaseholders resulted from disputes over the costs of major works with contractors. In future – the intention was to charge leaseholders for major works in advance, based on estimates.
· The collection rate (for council tax and business rates) was worsening – this was accounted for in the development of the budget. Work was taking place to ensure that debts could be collected.
· Once off funding for health services was to support discharge from hospitals to care services – it was not clear whether this funding would continue into next year (or subsequent years)
· The late notification of rent increases that occurred last year could not be remedied this year (due to the in-sourcing of Lewisham Homes) but would be corrected in 2025.
· Local housing allowance levels were set on 2011 figures. The Council’s temporary accommodation reduction plan was based on creating alternatives to expensive nightly paid accommodation.
4.3 Resolved: that the report be noted.
That the report be noted. Members also noted their formal thanks for officers’ and councillor colleagues’ work on the budget. The Chair highlighted the impact of year-on-year cuts proposals on the Council and recognised that each year setting a balanced budget became more difficult.
5.1 Councillor Dacres (Deputy Mayor (Acting as Mayor)) was invited to address the Committee. She thanked officers and colleagues for their work on the draft budget. Cllr Dacres also noted the pressing financial situation facing the Council – and set out the key elements of the proposed budget for the upcoming year.
5.2 Jennifer Daothong (Chief Executive) was invited to address the Committee. Jennifer noted the tough financial situation facing all councils and the difficult decisions being taken to develop the Council’s budget for the upcoming year – including the proposal to draw down reserves to set a balanced budget.
5.3 David Austin (Acting Executive Director for Corporate Resources) introduced the report. David outlined the budget cuts proposals (totalling £7.9m), noting the timeline for making decisions and the process for their implementation. David noted that any cuts that were not made would have to be covered from the Council’s reserves.
5.4 David Austin, Pinaki Ghoshal, Jeremy Chambers (Director of Law and Corporate Governance), Gillian Douglas (Executive Director for Housing), and Jennifer Daothong responded to questions from the Committee on the cuts proposals – the following key points were noted:
· A number of the proposals needed additional consideration and development (subject to agreement by Mayor and Cabinet) This included detailed business cases for those proposals that related to the development of assets.
· Savings related to transitions were expected to be less than initially estimated. Work was taking place between social care teams to realise this proposal successfully.
· A great deal of work had taken place in adult social care to understand the needs of service users and to work with providers to manage costs.
· Further information would be provided on the public health funded schemes that would cease as a result of the neighbourhood community partnerships proposal.
· Competition in the private rented sector had limited the number of properties available through Capital Letters – the reduction in resources reflected this.
· This year’s budget setting process had been unusual due to the expectation of growth – which resulted in the amendment of the mid-term financial strategy in year.
· The broader financial context remained volatile – which made controlling spending and making forecasts difficult.
· Work was taking place to make sure resources and assets were more effectively aligned in future.
· It was intended that the conversation around the budget with members remained ongoing – rather than at defined points in the year.
· Scrutiny had given consideration to a report on equalities monitoring earlier in the year.
· Training on the implementation of the equalities framework had been delivered for senior managers.
· There were very few substantive restructures proposed in the budget. Where there were proposals then these would be subject to the Council’s human resources policies, which would take into account the roles of agency staff.
· The grant programme from government seemed to mostly focus on adult social care, even though many councils were experiencing pressures in children’s social care. This would be specifically highlighted in the budget report.
· Additional funding was going into ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
That the work programme be agreed.
6.1 The Committee discussed the work programme for its meeting in March. It was agreed that consideration would be given to the housing revenue account and to cost pressures in temporary accommodation.
6.3 Resolved: that the work programme be agreed.