[To review the comments of each Scrutiny Panel and provide further feedback to Cabinet – Comments from the Adult and Safer City Scrutiny Panel, Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel and the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel will be sent to follow as the Panels have not yet met.]
Cllr Andrew Johnson, Cabinet Member for Resources presented a report seeking feedback from Scrutiny Board in relation to the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2017/18 that had been approved as the basis of consultation by Cabinet on 19 October 2016. Cllr Johnson confirmed that the public consultation was on going until 14 January 2017 and that there had been a good response so far with over 2000 online responses being received.
Cllr Johnson confirmed that the Council needed to achieve Budget Reduction and Income Generation amounting to £13.5 million and £10.0 million of Base Budget Revisions for 2017/18. Cllr Johnson stated that £10 million of savings had already been identified which left a remaining deficit of £13,539,000.
Members expressed concern that additional money needed to be found to fund social care and queried whether there was any additional information regarding whether this would need to be achieved by raising the Council Tax precept or whether money form the Better Care Fund might be made available sooner that preciously expected. Cllr Johnson stated that this was still an unknown but that the preference would be to bring forward money from the Better Care Fund. The Chair suggested that that once the final details had been received that there might be scope for a piece of joint working with the Health Scrutiny Panel and representatives from the CCG and Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.
A question was raised in relation to items on page 11 of the first supplementary agenda regarding revisions to assumptions on pension auto-enrolment and further pension contributions. The Finance Director confirmed that the City Council was currently in a position where additional payments could be made to avoid significant interest costs. The Panel queried why other Councils were not doing this and the Cabinet Member stated that management of the pension fund was a matter for each individual authority and that the City of Wolverhampton Council was able to make the additional payments due to careful management of it’s savings.
The Board agreed that it was vital that the Council maintained a clear understanding of the situation regarding the Pension Fund. The Cabinet Member agreed and stated that the Council was currently doing an excellent job and that many issues had arisen due to staff taking redundancy and then their pensions and this not being balanced out by the contributions from the remaining reduced workforce. However the Council had budgeted for this and was now in a position where the aforementioned advance payments could be made.
Members requested that a presentation be provided to the Board at a future meeting in relation to the Pension Fund.
Members queried how the projected savings of £1,000,000 listed on page 16 of the first supplementary agenda in relation to the use of public health funding would be made. The Cabinet Member stated that this came from a strictly ring fenced budget but that the rules did allow for some adjustments to be made as long as the funding was used for activities that promoted public health.
The Board considered the proposed savings in relation to adults social and health care and acknowledged that there were serious issues relating to adult care right across the country that would need to be addressed over the next 12 months. Many of these issues related to demographic growth and the Board noted the additional budget that had been allocated for this. The Cabinet Member confirmed that many of the savings came from the promotion of independence, better ways of working and the use of new technology such as the telecare system which allowed patients to remain at home for longer rather than having to enter residential care. The Board did however note that many of these savings benefited the Health Service and that that some negotiation needed to take place to ensure that the benefits were shared by the Council. The Cabinet Member agreed and stated that the Adult Care service as a whole was in need of additional resources on a scale that could only be provided by Central Government.
The Board considered the importance of including the Communications team in disseminating information relating to this area to explain to the public what the Council was doing. The Cabinet Member agreed and stated that this would be done once a decision had been made by the Government as to the settlement.
The Chair stated that it was vital that there were robust governance procedures in place and that it was important that the Council be in a position to act as broker for the various health and social care partners who would be involved.
Members considered the savings in relation to car park usage on page 23 of the second supplementary and requested that there be careful consideration regarding the impact of charges on businesses in the area to ensure that trade was not lost. The Cabinet Member confirmed that this would be taken into consideration and that the current proposals dealt with charges being incurred after a 2 or 3 hour stay rather than for short stays. The Cabinet Member also confirmed that issues such as displacement would be taken into account and proper qualitative surveying and consultation carried out before any decisions were made. The Chair of the Vibrant and Sustainable Scrutiny Panel confirmed that his Panel had requested a detailed report on this to come to a future meeting.
1. That the comments of the Scrutiny Board on the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2017/18 be considered by Cabinet.
2. That a report be brought to a future meeting of the Board in relation to the Pension Fund.