Tony Burton introduced the report that set out the following:
· Carry forward balances at 1st April 2019
· Forecast variances in each of the blocks of the Dedicated Schools Grant in 2019/20
· Projected closing balances at 31st March 2020
· Changes in 2019/20 dedicated schools grant allocations advised by Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in 2019/20
· Proposed use of maintained schools contingency funding in 2019/20 to support schools restructuring costs
Tony Burton highlighted the following elements of the report:
Schools block – a £550k surplus in the schools block will be used for falling rolls protection and support for mainstream schools in financial difficulty and contingency funding.
High needs block – the high needs block was forecast to overspend by £5.85m in 2019/20 and the deficit was forecast to reach £19.81m by 31/03/20. There was a live DfE consultation around how to present this deficit on the balance sheet.
The Chair asked for an update at the next meeting on the work of the pressures group and plans to rebalance the high needs block budget. Tony Burton noted that a recovery plan came to the forum earlier in the year which the ESFA had now considered and officers were anticipating a visit from them in the near future.
Central services block – the central services block was forecast to have a balanced budget (including the proposed transfer to the high needs block).
Early years block – the early years block had a retained deficit from last year as a result of the historic budget model. The 2019-20 budget should bring that back into balance.
Jane Gleasure (PVI sector) noted that inclusion funding for Early Years providers was very low and accessing funding in Early Years settings was challenging. The local authority only had one liaison officer for 71 settings, including maintained settings. She asked that officers removed barriers to funding for providers. Tony Burton said the SEND service were looking into that area.
Falling rolls and funding for schools in financial difficulty
The Chair asked if officers were satisfied that the schools in question had produced workable recovery plans. Tony Burton said they had – officers visited all of the schools and ensured their restructuring plans resulted in balanced budgets.
A forum member asked if the officers analysis looked at any contingency within the schools. Tony Burton said the schools in question had relatively little in the way of contingency funding and were relying on ‘dwindling’ reserves. The process required that schools dealt with their structural budget issues and were sustainable within the current funding formula.
Tony Burton drew the forum’s attention to paragraph 4.3 of the report that detailed some clawback of funding from a census error. The number of two year olds was overstated on the census so the ESFA had requested the funding be returned, however there was a similar underclaim on the same census that the ESFA would not correct – leaving the Council down around £335k. Officers had written to the ESFA requesting that they were even-handed on these issues. The Chair requested that Jacqui McShannon drafted a letter from the forum to the ESFA on the matter.
ACTION: Jacqui McShannon
The recommendations were unanimously agreed.
1. Agree falling rolls protection of £25,000 from the falling rolls protection fund to Phoenix Academy following their successful Ofsted and to assist with expenditure undertaken by the school to successfully impact their roll.
2. Agree maintained primary school contingency to three schools totalling £185,000 per Table 3 to assist with restructure costs as part of setting a balanced forward budget and to mitigate retained deficit forecast at 31/03/20 as a result of those costs.