Venue: Training Room, Ground Floor, Civic Centre, St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton WV1 1SH
Contact: Earl Piggott-Smith Tel: 01902 551251 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies were received from the following members of the panel:
Cllr Welcome Koussoukama
Cllr Mak Singh
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest recorded.
[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record]
That the minutes of the meeting be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]
There were no matters arising from the minutes.
Cabinet in October were presented with the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2018-2019 which enables the council to set a balance budget.
There were no new specific budget reduction proposals that fell in the remit of this panel.
There had been 4 evening consultation meetings with public and breakfast meetings with businesses along with an online and paper survey.
In Paragraph 3 it was noted that the significant existing budget reduction targets of £3.75 million related to looked after children. The Children’s’ Transformation Programme had been implemented and sought to reduce demand on specialist services by safely preventing family breakdowns. Significant progress had now been made and nationally the numbers of looked after children were increasing but the numbers were remaining level in Wolverhampton. It was important to try to ensure that children remained with their families safely
The panel noted sections 4.1.6 of the report which highlighted a potential overspend and a number of actions regarding how to reduce deficit.
There were a significant number of young people in care and a young people’s pilot team had been set up to try and help keep them remain at home safely
Officers stated that they were also reviewing the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)and would looking for more cost effective placements where possible. Officers would also be looking to recruit in-house foster parents.
The Director for Education stated that the Education Department had delivered savings over the last few years but due to increased demand there was an overspend. The Director stated that the dedicated schools grant was ring fenced and there was core funding but that there were some implications due to having to place some children out of the City. The Schools Forum had agreed to retrospectively fund some of this. Officers were looking at the strategy to ensure that children’s needs were being met locally. This was linked to funding more places in the City and having services in the City to cut down on transport costs.
The panel commented on the previous overspend in 25 July and queried what the situation was now. Officers confirmed that there was still some overspend but over the summer there had been a piece of work looking across the whole of children’s services and a recovery plan put in place to consider how the Council could mitigate against risks. At the moment it was estimated that there could be £700,000 of efficiencies in 2017/2018 and further work currently being carried out as shown in the list under section 4.1.6.
The panel requested further clarification of the education savings.
The Director stated that the Council was seeking to reduce the number of children who had to be educated outside of the city and the knock-on transport costs of this. There was no income associated with this but savings and on costs. The Council was also looking at the services we trade with schools to ensure that we are bringing in the right income. The Director stated that ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
[Bill Hague, Head of School Planning and Resources, to present report]
A report updating the panel regarding school place planning activities in Wolverhampton was introduced by Head of School Planning and Resources.
The report highlighted current pressures on school places, outlined the anticipated future needs of communities, and detailed the status of proposed expansion programmes.
The panel considered that it was worrying that the Local Authority had to negotiate with academies to get children into school.
The question was raised as to whether the Council was looking at development in the north of the City where hundreds of houses being built and how the primary and secondary differences had been mapped.
It was stated that people were now more willing for their children to travel to the school of their preference and clarified that the Council could only seek to expand good or outstanding schools which made the task even more difficult. It was stated that a school might be in the right place but the Council could not seek to expand it if it did not have the required rating.
It was also stated that due to parental preference the Council was looking to expand popular schools. At the moment this had resulted in more being done in the south of the City where there was increasing demand which marked the start of a longer term expansion programme. It was stated the in the future the Council would look to mirror what it had done with primary schools in the secondary arena but that it had to be recognised that there were less but bigger secondary schools resulting in less options for development.
A panel member stated that in his opinion, Wednesfield was struggling and was already short of primary places with more housing planned.
Officers stated that this was part of the rationale of moving from 3 to 4 planning areas. The Council needed to be really sure that the number of children in that part of the city equalled demand for schools in that area. The Council did monitor places across the city and also considered areas for contingency sites. If there was a need to create additional primary places then this was accepted but it also had to be noted that this could then be a future issue for secondary provision and that creative solutions were required. Officers confirmed that the concerns of the Councillors in Wednesfield had been noted and were reflected in the projections.
The panel commended officers on a brilliant paper.
The panel queried what the school appeals were like and whether there was a back log. It was confirmed that there was no backlog but a large number of in year appeals continued to come in. The Council had a legal duty to provide a right to appeal and the City Council had the best success rate in the West Midlands with a team that was focused on process and if possible finding solutions for families that negated the need for an appeal.
The panel considered the fact that expansion post 16 was ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
A report was introduced by the Head of Safeguarding to provide Scrutiny with a copy of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) Annual Report and to inform Scrutiny of the safeguarding activity 2016/2017 and to present the progress made against the priorities for that period.
The Annual Report was agreed by the WSCB and provided an overview of how partners had discharged their safeguarding responsibilities over the preceding year.
The Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) was a statutory body set up in accordance with the Children Act 2004, and Care Act 2015, respectively. The Board was a partnership of enthusiastic members, dedicated to the improvement of practice and services that safeguard children in Wolverhampton.
The Annual Report was a summary of WSCB work during 2016-17.
Key points to be noted in the report were:
1. That the Safeguarding Report was subject to OFSTED and required improvement.
2. There was a need to improve how the organisations scrutinised themselves and other organisations.
3. The excellent partnership with the City Council was noted but there were some concerns that it was not monitored as well as it could be. There was work required in this area and the Board was well on track to do this and it formed part of its strategic action plan.
4. The panel noted the work of the BeSafe Team. This team involved young people in the City with an interest in safeguarding who wanted to make a difference in Wolverhampton. Work had included the Bullying Charter which had been introduced and adopted by all schools and around healthy relationships. There had also been a takeover day when the team took over the Board and encouraged it to reconsider its priorities and how it managed and monitored those who provided services and the affect they had on children.
5. There was now more focus on quality assurance. The Board had reinvigorated the Quality Assurance Committee to enable a better audited schedule and better challenge.
6. Multi agency case file audits had increased across agencies to share learning more effectively and two serious case reviews had been published. Learning form these serious case reviews were now embedded in learning and the board continued to oversee and actions required.
It was important to note that the Board was responsible for all the children in the City not just the most vulnerable children.
There had been a lot of work around Child Sexual Exploitation and from a very low base line (10 reports of identified children at risk) by the end of the period were reporting 50 and were now up to 130 which meant that these children could now start to get the correct support.
Page 42 of the Report dealt with the OFSTED recommendations.
It was noted that this was a Partnership Board and funded by the Partnership. The Local Authority was the largest contributor but not necessarily the biggest voice but had been positive in helping the Board achieve its expectations.
The Youth Council representatives stated that ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
[Bill Hague, Head of School Planning and Resources, to present report on the proposed school merger for pre-decision scrutiny prior to the report being considered by Cabinet]
A report was submitted for pre-decision scrutiny regarding the change in circumstances at infant and junior school.
The report detailed the outcomes of Informal Consultation and Formal Consultation (Representation) on the proposed merger of Springdale Infant School with Springdale Junior School. The paper would seek Cabinet approval to merge the two schools to create a primary school to cater for pupils aged between 3 and 11 years with effect from 1 January 2018.
It was confirmed that the Head teacher from the infants’ school was no longer in place so the Head teacher from the Junior School was already running both.
That Cabinet be informed that Scrutiny Panel supports the recommendations listed in the report.