Agenda item

End of September corporate budget and performance report 2017/18

To provide assurance that progress is being made towards achievement of the agreed revenue and service delivery targets, and that the reasons for major variances or potential under-performance are understood and are being addressed to the cabinet’s satisfaction.


The cabinet member for economy and corporate services introduce the report and noted that it was in the usual style. He highlighted the following points from the report:

·         the latest budget projection forecast an overspend of £2.172m, much of which was due to meeting children’s needs

·         the number of internal and external placements for children in care continued to be higher than expected

·         an invest to save project was beginning to increase capacity to support the reduction in numbers of looked after children over the next 18 months

·         39% of performance measures where data was available showed an improvement compared to the same period in the previous year, a drop from the previous performance report

·         directorates were putting in place measures to address the reduced performance in key areas

·         maintaining performance while delivering savings was a measure of improved efficiency

·         the unauthorised capital spend on the Blueschool House project was a cause for concern, in addition to the audit and governance committee overseeing actions that should offer assurance of internal processes the chief executive had approached the LGA to establish a peer review of governance and culture to take place early in 2018

·         the number of people who had attended an NHS healthcheck had increased by 8% in the previous quarter and was the second best for comparable authorities

·         the majority of new social work assessments in children’s wellbeing were completed within statutory timescale, a notable improvement from the same period the previous year

·         provisional exam results showed Herefordshire’s youngest pupils achieved improved outcomes in the full range of assessments

·         the £5m investment from the challenge fund in maintaining three strategic roads in the county was expected to be very beneficial in the long term

·         the council had exceeded the target for the sale of council assets, this released £1m of planned savings which were being delivered a year early

·         road deaths were unacceptably high and were an area of concern

·         the unemployment rate in Herefordshire was down to a record low of 1,135.


The cabinet member for infrastructure noted that the overspend was a projected outturn rather than an actual overspend. He asked whether the children’s wellbeing directorate could continue to keep children safe while addressing the projected overspend.


The cabinet member for young people and children’s wellbeing responded that one of the councils priorities was to keep children safe and give them the best start in life. Decisions were made on individual children rather than having a blanket approach. Work had been done to reduce the number of children subject to child protection plans and the numbers were now appropriate compared with statistical neighbours. Measures had also been put in place to ensure that where children were taken into care this was an appropriate decision. The number of children coming into care was now comparative with statistical neighbours. Plans were being developed to achieve permanency for children currently in care where this was appropriate over the next 2 years. This would reduce costs while also continuing to meet the needs of the children.


The cabinet member for finance, housing and ICT noted that with the exception of the looked after children budget, all other savings within children’s wellbeing were in line with budgets. He noted that nationally children’s wellbeing budgets were expected to be overspent by around £2bn. He asked whether anticipated savings would continue to be delivered in future years and noted the rebasing of the budget for 2018/19 to reflect the true nature of the looked after children population.


The cabinet member for young people and children’s wellbeing responded that he felt the council was right to budget in the way it had for the majority of services that the children’s wellbeing directorate provided. He was confident that savings could be continued in future. Achieving long term solutions for children in care took a long time given the complexities of need and this was why services were overspending nationally.


The cabinet member for finance, housing and ICT asked the chief executive for an update on the report into the unauthorised overspend and whether anything else was being done to review processes.


The chief executive confirmed that the report by the council’s internal auditors had been completed and published in September. A separate external investigation on the circumstances around the unauthorised spend had been commissioned which required interviewing of personnel involved. The report was expected shortly but would not be published as it would contain confidential information about the discussions with individuals. The report would provide information to inform decisions about whether any consequential action should be pursued.


An overview of existing processes with a view to strengthening governance was taking place. A full LGA corporate challenge was being arranged for early in 2018. The report arising from that piece of work would be made public.


Group leaders were asked to present the views of their group.


The leader of the independent group asked whether the number of children being adopted or returned home had increased as a result of the new approach.

The cabinet member for young people and children’s wellbeing responded that there would be natural variation in figures depending on the individual circumstances of the children in the system at any one time.


The leader of the independent group asked for further information on the internal control improvement board. The chief finance officer explained that the board was looking at a number of areas for improvement including the 13 recommendations made in the report from the internal auditors on the Blueschool House project. Within the process the terms of reference of a further project had been agreed to look at how the council accounts for capital projects and reports to cabinet and external partners. A working group of councillors from the audit and governance committee had observed a meeting of the board and were reviewing papers. A report would go back to the audit and governance committee in January 2018.


The leader of the green group noted that although the economy, communities and corporate directorate had a nil variance on the budget projection, many performance measures were red which might indicate some tension.


The leader of the it’s our county group raised queries on a number of points regarding the capital budget forecast:

·         clarification on the meaning of the word slippage for capital projects,

·         what the adj column referred to,

·         where the £7.1m overspend on the city link road was shown or included.


A written response was promised.



Resolved that:


The projected financial outturn and performance for the first six months of 2017/18 were reviewed and cabinet determined any additional actions required to achieve improvement.

Supporting documents: