[Cllr Louise Miles, Cabinet Member for Resources - Portfolio Holder Session]
Cllr Louise Miles, Cabinet Member for Resources, briefed the panel on key priorities and service delivery challenges within her portfolio responsibility.
Cllr Miles advised the panel that a major challenge to the Council is delivering a legal balanced budget at end of each year, while also continuing to manage a reduction of over £220 million in Government funding since 2010. This was highlighted as the most significant challenge facing the Council.
Cllr Miles briefed on the panel on the range of work done to drive out inefficiencies needed to deliver the required to achieve annual savings target. The current level of uncertainty about future Government funding after April 2020 makes it difficult to plan ahead with confidence and one-off rather than sustained funding adds to the challenge in trying to plan and budget effectively.
Cllr Miles commented that the biggest area of concern is funding for adult social care and children’s services. The Council is working with local authorities across the region to develop creative solutions to help manage the costs in this area.
Cllr Miles commented on the work done to improve council tax collection rates.
The panel discussed the operation of the providers of children and adult care services and the impact of increases in provider costs. Cllr Miles advised the panel that work is being done with other local authorities to agree a West Midlands position to help manage the level of fees for adult and children care services.
The panel queried alternatives to the current provision of adult social care and whether the experience of neighbouring authorities could help to improve the situation and the level of scrutiny of different options.
The panel discussed the merits of bringing services previously delivered by the Council back into the control to reduce costs and deliver improvements. Cllr Miles commented that national policy direction is not aimed at bringing services back in house.
The panel suggested that the concerns about the funding challenges facing the service could be either be referred to Adults and Safer City Scrutiny Panel or Scrutiny Board to consider adding it to their respective work programme.
Claire Nye, Director of Finance, commented that colleagues in finance use benchmarking information when looking at the costs of services in order to enable them to be appropriately challenged. The Director of Finance added that the issue of quality and delivering value are also factors to be considered when looking at provision of services. The panel were reassured that that funding decisions are not made solely on the basis of cost.
The panel queried the financial implications for the Council of the recent decision to declare a climate change emergency.
Cllr Miles advised the panel that Cllr McGarrity had recently been appointed Climate Change Champion and suggested it might be useful to invite her to brief the panel at a future meeting. Cllr Miles advised the panel that Directors have signed up to the climate emergency declaration and will be looking at how resources are used in future spending priorities and plans. Cllr Miles offered to share work on this issue with the panel in due course.
Tim Johnson, Chief Executive, added that the Council faces major decisions about replacing its vehicle fleet and the need to balance the long-term costs of acting to respond to climate change against the short-term costs in investing in alternative provision and technology. The panel suggested that this issue could be referred to the Vibrant and Sustainable City Panel or the Sustainability Advisory Group to consider the climate change and cost implications of Council decisions.
1. The panel welcomed the presentation and thanked the Cabinet Member for attending the meeting.
2. The Scrutiny Office to suggest to Vibrant and Sustainable City Panel or the Sustainability Advisory Group to consider the climate change and cost implications of Council decisions. The findings to be shared with the panel.
3. The panel agreed to consider topics to be considered in the panel work programme.