Agenda and minutes
Venue: online meeting
Contact: Sarah Buffrey, Governance Services
ELECTION OF CHAIRPERSON
To elect a chairperson for the ensuring year.
Kathy Weston was proposed and unanimously supported by members of the forum.
Resolved: that Kathy Weston be elected chairperson of the Forum for the ensuing year.
ELECTION OF VICE-CHAIRPERSON
To elect a vice-chairperson for the ensuing year.
Alison Banner was proposed and unanimously supported by members of the forum.
Resolved: that Alison Banner be elected vice-chairperson of the Forum for the ensuing year.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were noted from the following forum members: Andy Gosling, Ed Gwillim, Steve Kendrick, Tracey Kneale, Chris Lewandowski, Sian Lines, Sheila Taylor, Kathy Weston.
NAMED SUBSTITUTES (if any)
To receive any details of Members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a Member of the Forum.
The following substitutes were noted:
Lynn Johnson for Andy Gosling
Carol Rushton for Chris Lewandowski
Andrew Teale for Sian Lines
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.
Paul Deneen declared an interest in item 7 on the agenda as a representative of trades unions.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 15 July 2022.
The strategic finance manager had contacted the f40 group as requested at the previous meeting with regard to the sharing of information gathered on school energy costs. However this had been overtaken by national events and the government’s actions to address rising energy prices. Most Herefordshire schools received their energy through West Mercia Energy, who reported that they were fully hedged this year and next year, meaning Herefordshire schools were as protected as they could be through to April 2024.
With this update noted it was resolved that: the minutes of the meeting held on 15 July 2022 be approved as a correct record.
To seek the views of the forum on local and national school funding issues, including the recommendations of the budget working group (BWG) on the following matters:
· Spotlight Consultations
· De-delegation proposals
· Draft school budget consultation paper
· DSG Deficit Recovery Plan
· Application to DfE for approval to continue to fund Eastnor’s rent costs
The strategic finance manager gave a presentation on the key points to be covered in the annual consultation with schools. A copy of the presentation is attached to the minutes of the meeting.
In discussion of the presentation and proposed budget consultation it was noted that:
· The behaviour support service would provide further information so that schools would understand what they would be getting for the de-delegated sum if approved;
· There was now very little flexibility in the funding formula as it moved closer to a hard national formula;
· A 0.5% minimum funding guarantee was recommended;
· It was proposed to transfer £615k to the high needs block to fund the SEN protection scheme, this was the maximum that could be transferred;
· Schools had consistently reported how they valued the SEN protection scheme but the transfer proposed would not fund continued growth;
· Pressure for EHCPs continued, with referrals up 26% in the financial year;
· The outcome of the consultation would be discussed with the budget working group before coming to the next forum meeting in January 2023.
Further discussion will take place on the high needs budget ahead of setting a budget in March 2023 but there is concern that the expected allocation will not allow a balanced budget to be set. Forum members noted that:
· At the request of the budget working group a projection had been produced which showed how the deficit could grow based on the experiences of other councils;
· Action was being taken to minimise the use of out of county placements but this would take time to come to fruition;
· The base funding block for special schools had not been increased since 2014 and no funding proposals had yet come forward from the national SEND review, the local authority attempted to compensate for this by increasing the higher tariffs as much as possible;
· There was also a lot of demand outside special schools and all pupils with special education needs required better funding;
· Schools were also looking at solutions including options for Alternative Provision.
Options to apply pressure to the national government to address the pressures in high needs were discussed. Efforts have been made previously to engage with local MPs and it was suggested that the forum keep this under review.
The strategic finance manager informed forum members that he had re-applied to the DfE as advised by them to continue the exceptional factor to cover rent costs for Eastnor Primary School. This was a largely technically matter and the outcome would be reported to the forum in due course.
Forum members thanked officers and members of the budget working group for their work on the budget proposals.
It was resolved that:
The initial budget proposals for 2023/24 for schools and high needs, as outlined in the draft consultation paper, be approved for consultation with schools during the autumn term 2022.
To review dates of meetings and the work programme for 2022/23 and identify any additional items the forum wishes to consider.
The work programme and dates of future meetings were noted. No additional items were proposed for the work programme.