This report provides an update on progress towards setting the Council’s draft capital and revenue budgets for 2020/21. In accordance with the Constitution, Cabinet is required to develop ‘initial budget proposals’ approximately three months before finalising the budget and setting council tax levels at the end of February 2020. The draft budget is based on the principles contained in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2019-2024 approved by Cabinet in September and reflects the latest formula grant assumptions.
The Chief Finance Officer advised that the process of developing the 2020/21 Council budget had begun in September 2019, with consideration of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) by Cabinet. The MTFS had identified a gap of £5.956 million. Portfolio Holders and officers had been working together on proposals to address this deficit and savings identified would be included in the final budget to be presented to Cabinet in February. It was not anticipated that there would be any additional grant that would significantly change the Council’s budgetary position.
It was questioned how achievable the savings required in the Children and Adults directorate were in view of the pressures faced and the continuing national strain on social care. The Director People – Children and Adults acknowledged that there was significant pressure in the directorate regarding children’s services. Following recent publication of the Commissioner’s report on ways forward for Medway Children’s Services, substantial investment in Children’s Services had been agreed with Members. It was anticipated that this would lead to improved service quality.
Medway had been one of 32 local authorities required to develop a deficit plan in relation to the Dedicated Schools Grant, due to overspend. In relation to Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission had indicated there being a need to continue working with the education sector to improve inclusion. Growth in demand for Adult Social Care impacted on performance. Whilst there was currently a good supply, work was taking place with residential, nursing and domiciliary care providers to ensure this continued. The Assistant Director – Adult Social Care said that the MTFS had accounted for growing demand for adult social care services. £1.5 million of savings had already been identified with there being a £4million pressure for 2020/21.
It was asked whether there was concern about the provider market locally. The Assistant Director said there had not been significant handing back of contracts by providers and that levels in Medway were lower than elsewhere. The local homecare market was strong with a reprocurement exercise having been undertaken ahead of a new framework going live from April 2020. While there was good supply of nursing and residential care there were challenges in relation to nursing dementia provision. Work was being undertaken with the provider to bring forward additional provision.
Concern was expressed about rising demand for services and fragility associated with the continual need to make savings, including the required savings in public health in the context of new health plans having a specific focus on prevention. The Director of Public Health said that the NHS would be putting resources into prevention. It was not yet known how much Public Health funding would be available for 2020/21 but nationally there was an expectation of an average increase of 5.1%. The NHS had already provided nearly £0.5 million for preventative programmes across Kent and Medway and NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group had also provided additional resource. There were currently sufficient resources available to deliver core public health services.
A question was asked about how Council budgets accounted for the impact of environmental factors on public health. The Chief Finance Officer said that the increase in the Public Health Grant for 2020/21 had been expected to be £800,000 when the MTFS had been produced but was now expected to be £430,000. The Director of Public Health said that £1million of European funding had been secured for Social Prescribing and that work was taking place with Medway CCG to deliver additional wellbeing navigation. Environmental considerations that would help to mitigate against future negative impacts needed to be factored into commissioning processes.
i) Noted that Cabinet has instructed officers to continue to work with Portfolio Holders in formulating robust proposals to balance the budget for 2020/21 and beyond.
ii) Commented on the proposals outlined in the draft capital and revenue budgets in so far as they relate to the services within the remit of this committee for this to be fed back to the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January.