Agenda item

Financial Strategy work programme

To consider the Financial Strategy work programme.


*Papers to follow*



The Chairperson advised the board that issues had been raised about the draft terms of reference for this item, consequently no report had been published for this meeting.  Board members were invited to reflect on the scrutiny of the budget during 2023/24 to inform the development of the financial strategy work.


The principal points of the discussion included:


i.             A board member said that there was a need to consider issues around accountability for savings and the management of the budget, especially in view of the level of overspend in the Children and Young People directorate in 2023/24. 

The Chairperson noted that an overspend had been forecast from Quarter 1 and there was a need to understand why the additional costs were not known sufficiently early enough to inform budget setting.


ii.            A board member considered that there was a need to undertake financial scrutiny activity throughout the year, so that any emerging issues could be identified and management actions could be challenged if necessary.  Comments were also made about the implications of overspending for longer term plans.


The Statutory Scrutiny Officer said that the board could look forward in terms of deployment of funding and could look backwards in terms of quarterly reports. 


The Chairperson commented on timing issues with the public publication of budget reports, with Quarter 1 published in September and Quarter 2 in November, and the need to explore how there could be an appropriate level of scrutiny input, whilst being mindful of the separation of executive and scrutiny functions.


iii.          A board member questioned whether there was capacity for the Cabinet Member Finance and Corporate Services to provide the board with assurance and feedback on progress, particularly in relation to the Children and Young People directorate.


iv.          In response to a comment about the level of funding allocated to looked after children and care leavers in comparison to other cohorts, the Chairperson suggested that any areas of concern should be referred to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.


v.           There was a discussion about the need for the timing for the development of the delivery plan and the budget to be more closely aligned. 


A board member noted the Financial Scrutiny Practice Guide identified ‘Reviewing the integration between financial and service planning’ as one of the four fundamental areas where effective scrutiny could add value (link to the Financial Scrutiny Practice Guide).


vi.          A board member suggested that balance sheets should be made available.


vii.         The Vice-Chairperson commented on: the need to explore the potential of real-time corporate dashboards; and the need for responses to be provided to actions identified by the board.  The Chairperson added that quick turnaround of requests for additional information was essential given the compressed timescales for budget scrutiny.


viii.       The Chairperson identified other areas for consideration, including: improvements for timely and meaningful public, parish / town council, and stakeholder consultation on priorities; the delivery of the capital programme in order to support communities, the delivery of services, and service transformation; and opportunities around income and charging.


ix.          A board member suggested that the executive needed to consider mechanisms to respond quickly and effectively when issues with delivery emerged. 


The Statutory Scrutiny Officer advised that arrangements had been made for a further informal discussion with board members and the revised work programme would be provided for consideration at the next scheduled meeting.