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Contact: Josie Lloyd Tel: 01270 686466 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
To note any apologies for absence from Members.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S Handley, I Macfarlane and L Smith. Councillor A Critchley attended as a substitute for Councillor Smith.
Declarations of Interest
To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests in any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the previous meeting held on 08 November 2021.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 8 November 2021 be approved as a correct record.
Public Speaking/Open Session
In accordance with paragraph 2.24 of the Council’s Committee Procedure Rules and Appendix on Public Speaking, set out in the Constitution, a total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to put questions to the committee on any matter relating to this agenda. Each member of the public will be allowed up to two minutes each to speak, and the Chair will have discretion to vary this where they consider it appropriate.
Members of the public wishing to speak are required to provide notice of this at least three clear working days’ in advance of the meeting.
There were no public speakers.
Covid-19 Schools Update (Verbal)
Mark Bayley, Head of School Infrastructure and Outcomes, provided an update on the current Covid-19 position in schools. It was noted that the recent autumn term had been the most challenging period during the pandemic so far due to high case rates. Schools were thanked for their hard work in remaining open throughout these pressures. While case rates currently remained high, there had been a fall from the recent peak in school age children. The rollout of the second dose of the vaccine for the 12-15 cohort was due to begin on 11 January in schools and it was noted that this was also available to access through vaccination clinics.
That the update be noted.
To receive a presentation on the recent Ofsted inspection.
Kerry Birtles, Director of Children’s Social Care, delivered a presentation on the recent Ofsted inspection which took place in November 2021. This was noted to have been a positive experience for Cheshire East and progress was identified as well as recommendations for further improvement. The rating of requiring improvement to be good would remain until it could be assessed at the next full inspection. The committee thanked the team for their work.
A request was made for information to be brought to the committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the service area to put performance data into context.
That the update be noted.
To receive the annual report of the Safeguarding Children Partnership.
The committee received the report which provided an update on progress against the Cheshire East Safeguarding Children’s Partnership priorities over 2020-21, as well as plans for the partnership for the next year.
A query was raised regarding the 518 cared for children referenced on page 26 as it appeared the breakdown in percentages did not total 100%. It was agreed that a written response would be provided to clarify this data.
A further question was raised about data on page 26 regarding the 148 children who had ceased to be cared for by the local authority as the figures provided did not refer to all 148 children. A written response would be provided.
It was noted that members of the committee were welcome to engage in frontline visits and could arrange this through the Chair.
A request was made for future reports to include comparative data from other local authorities for context.
That the report be noted.
To receive an update on the establishment of a new primary school in Nantwich.
The committee received the report which provided an update to the previously approved committee paper, received by the Children and Families Committee on 12 July 2021, on the establishment of a new primary school in Nantwich.
1. That the committee receives and notes the summary of the feedback received following the 5-week informal representation period (Appendix 1) which is a required stage in the DfE Free School Presumption process to allow the opening of a new primary school in Nantwich.
2. That the committee supports the progression of the prescribed free school process in the generation and submission of the draft specification (stage 3) to the DfE.
To consider and approve the progression of the free school presumption process to open a new primary school in Basford East, Crewe.
The committee received the report which outlined the proposal to progress with the free school presumption process to open a new primary school in Basford East, Crewe.
1. To proceed with the free school presumption process which will include undertaking a consultation with the local community, local schools, local councillors, town council and local MP. This is not the formal statutory consultation which sponsors are required to undertake.
2. To report back to committee the outcomes from the consultation process so that feedback is considered from the local communities.
3. To proceed with the transfer of the proposed school site into the Council ownership, as detailed in the Section 106 agreement, together with any other agreements associated with or ancillary to the transfer.
4. To progress with the process of attracting potential sponsors to run the new school and to complete any agreements or land transfers associated with appointing a suitable sponsor. Ultimately, the Secretary of State will approve the sponsor following due process.
To receive an update on the financial position for 2021/22. To note or approve virements and supplementary estimates as required.
The committee received the report which provided a review of the 2021/22 financial year.
A concern was raised about establishing an Educational Psychologist traded service due to issues with the capacity to carry out statutory work and potential inequality of opportunity for children depending on the financial position of their school. Assurances were given that there was no intention to take capacity away from statutory work and that this area remained the priority.
A concern was raised about the increase in costs of external placements for cared for children, with a view put forward that the savings were not realistic.
A further concern was raised about relying on reserves which were believed to be low. The committee was advised that mitigations were in place as well as ongoing monitoring by officers with the aim of reaching a balanced position.
A question was raised regarding the accuracy of the forecast £0.4m overspend in the Place directorate and a written response would be provided to clarify this.
It was suggested that, for future reports, when referencing numbers of cared for children it would be useful to include the percentage of the population in Cheshire East that this accounts for, as well as the national position for context.
That the Children and Families Committee:
1.1. Notes the report of the Finance Sub-Committee, specifically the recommendations of that committee:
1.1.1. Finance Sub-Committee recommend Service Committees to:
18.104.22.168. note the financial update and forecast outturn relevant to their terms of
22.214.171.124. note that officers will seek to improve outcomes and the financial
outturn across all committees to mitigate the overall forecast overspend
of the council.
1.2. Notes Appendix 4 and the following sections specific to this committee:
• Changes to Revenue budget 2021/22
• Policy Proposals Update
• Corporate Grants Register
• Debt Management
• Capital Strategy
• Reserve Strategy
1.3. Approves the additional specific grant supplementary revenue estimate
over £500,000 and up to £1,000,000 in Appendix 4, Section 3 Corporate Grants Register, Table 2.
Councillor Addison left the meeting and did not return.
To respond to budget consultation for Children and Families Services. (Appendix 2 to follow).
The committee received the report which aimed to capture the committee members’ responses to consultation on the Medium-Term Financial Strategy 2022 to 2026. Comments were put forward on the following proposals:
Investment in Cared for Children and Care Leavers:
· This investment was welcomed and noted to be a good news story.
Increase capacity to support Statutory SEND service:
· Councillor Flavell acknowledged the deficit in SEND but welcomed the increase of capacity.
Revenue costs for Crewe Youth Zone:
· Councillor Flavell highlighted the positive impact for Crewe and that, if successful, this is something which could be rolled out wider in the long term.
· Councillor Saunders expressed a concern about the perceived inequality of access for young people depending on their geographical location due to a lack of public transport in some areas, particularly Macclesfield.
· Councillor Saunders expressed a further concern about the youth zone model not always being successful and the committee not having seen the business plan yet.
· Councillor Saunders raised a concern about taking £400,000 out of Early Help to fund this service and expressed the view that this was counter intuitive as it would have a negative impact on families elsewhere.
Safeguarding Children – legacy staffing pressure:
· The committee noted this proposal.
Growth in Children & Families Commissioning Contracts
· The committee noted this proposal.
Increase capacity to support Statutory Education Psychology Service:
· Councillor Hayes advised he was broadly in support of this in order to meet statutory requirements, although had concerns about what would happen at the end of financial year 2024 to sustain the increase in provision. A request was made for detail on what would happen from 2024 onwards.
A redesign of Early Help Services into a Locality model:
· Councillor Saunders raised a concern about the reference to change to items 10, 11, 50, 72 in 2021/22 budget (page 141) and requested that it is noted that what is being proposed to be taken out next year is greater than what was originally proposed. It was agreed that a written response would be provided for clarity on this.
· Councillor Hayes noted from other reports received today that more extreme and complex cases were coming through Early Help services resulting in additional pressure. Councillor Hayes expressed a concern that there could be a double risk of some children being missed by the system due to not having capacity and thresholds being reduced meaning less impact from Early Help.
· A question was raised as to whether there is there likely to be a reduction of frontline staff proposed through this saving and what that would look like for communities. The committee were advised that the proposals were not for a reduction in frontline capacity but that a written response would be provided with more detail.
· A further question was raised regarding the total of earmarked reserves and it was agreed that Jo Wilcox would circulate a full list to the committee.
Restructure Early Help Budget for Crewe Youth Zone:
· It was requested that comments detailed above regarding concerns about ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
To receive an update on government grant funding for Children and Families.
The committee received the report which provided an update on government grant funding for Children and Families, including active grants over the winter period (Household Support Grant and Holiday Activity Fund) and the impact of grants over summer 2021.
That the report be noted.
To note the performance of Children’s Services for quarter 2.
The committee received the report which set out the performance for Children’s services for quarter 2 of 2021-22.
That the report be noted.
To consider the Work Programme and determine any required amendments.
Consideration was given to the committee’s work programme.
Two items were requested to be brought to committee:
· The business plan for Crewe Youth Zone
· A report providing a detailed look at Children’s Commissioning
It was suggested that focused, deep dive reviews of topics could be considered for the committee to participate in over the next year and further discussion of this would take place at a later date.
That the work programme be noted.