[Mark Taylor, Director of Finance, to present report]
Cllr Andrew Johnson, Cabinet Member Resources, introduced the report and invited panel members feedback on the budget proposals. The Cabinet Member advised the panel that there had been a good attendance at public meeting events arranged by the Council to explain the budget savings proposals. The Chair advised the panel that comments on proposals would be collated and sent to Scrutiny Board. The panel discussion on the budget proposals are shown below:
Corporate Administration Review
Colin Parr, Head of Governance, explained that the £50,000 savings would be achieved by deleting unfilled held vacancies. The savings target of £250,000 for 2018/19 is an indicative figure.
The Head of Governance explained how the savings target would be achieved and referred to the use of Agresso as example of savings that could be achieved as a result of introducing changes in current working practices.
Further development of YOO Recruit
The Cabinet Member for Resources explained how the savings target would be achieved by entering into a partnership with a recruitment agency that would help generate savings. The panel queried the rationale for the Council wanting to involve an external agency which would be reduce the current level of income. The Cabinet Member explained that in order to grow the business the Director of Finance would be required to dedicate more time to manage the project and the view of the Council was that this would not be appropiate. The Cabinet Member for Resources explained that the Council would retain control of the project and determine its future direction. The project would retain its public sector ethos. The Cabinet Member for Resources commented that the aim of the planned change is to make the service attractive to external companies. The Cabinet Member for Resources explained how future risks would be managed to ensure that the Council is guaranteed to receive an agreed level of income.
Governance Service Restructure
Review of External Legal Fees
School Admission Appeal Fees
The Head of Governance explained that Council incurs considerable costs in dealing with admission appeals on behalf of schools, particularly when hearings do not go ahead as planned.
In addition, the increasing number of appeals has added to the demand on staff resources. The Head of Governance explained that changes will be made to the current service level agreement and that work will be done to look at the feasibility of offering the appeal service to schools outside Wolverhampton who may be interested in buying the service.
The panel discussed the risk of schools choosing to buy in appeal services from another provider. The Head of Governance explained that there would be market testing work done to check that the fees cover the costs involved providing the service.
The panel discussed the Council’s approach to budget management and forecasting. The Cabinet Member for Resources explained that rationale underpinning the budgetary assumptions detailed in the report. The Director of Finance explained that the work had been informed by findings and recommendations from the LGA Peer Review. A key finding from the report was that the Council approach to financial planning was prudent and where necessary changes have been made to respond to changes in the level of risk – for example, assumptions about future changes to interest rate policy.
The panel discussed the challenge facing the Council in achieving the budget savings target of £130 million. The Cabinet Member for Resources explained that the Council has a contingency reserve to help it respond to future financial challenges. The Director of Finance explained that the Council gets regular updates from financial advisers about future finance issues and the assumptions used when drafting the budget report.
The panel suggested that it would be helpful for the public to collate all the separate reports linked to the budget consultation document into a single document. The Director of Finance agreed to make the changes.
The Director of Finance advised the panel that the Council had received 27,000 emails responding the budget consultation.
The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member for presenting the report.
1. The panel comments and feedback on the draft budget proposals to be incorporated into the response to scrutiny board.
2. The Director of Finance agreed to make the changes to the Council website to include a link to all budget reports.
3. The panel agreed that the final response be finalised by the Chair and Vice Chair.