To review the proposed 2020/21 Education Budget.
The Interim Head of Finance, Children Families and Education introduced the report and the following was noted:
Following the overview of the report provided, Members had the opportunity to raise questions.
A Member questioned what was being done to manage excess places in schools which presented a problem in accumulation of large financial deficits. Officers said that managing plans for school places was a challenge due to various contributing factors such as inward migration and birth rates. There were issues in the Borough with surplus places in some schools due to popularity and parental choice. Balancing budgets for schools was challenging as this was done on the basis of children on school roll and leavers. The department was keeping a clear oversight on schools that had a deficit by providing challenge where necessary, requesting info on their budget and more importantly providing support and assisting to explore where possible savings could be made.
The Cabinet Member for Children Families and Learning added that it was important that the focus should be on local schools for local children and that efforts continued to be made to build and influence parental choice in order for this vision to be realised.
It was asked how confident officers were on controlling the budget and closing the deficit as there was significant concern about the Council’s ability to manage the deficit. Officers responded that all that could be done was being done without compromising the offer for children, in particular within the legislative requirements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) to contain spend within the allocation. It was difficult to be confident on paying back and eliminating the accumulated deficit to bring back the budget in year. The department was working hard to manage its budget and this was reflected in the SEND Strategy’s basis of local provision for Croydon children as this would assist in not having to pay high costs for out of borough independent school fees. There was confidence in the SEND Strategy’s proposal outcomes that this could be achieved.
The Chair thanked officers for their report and engagement with the meeting and also for the briefing sessions that had been provided prior to the meeting to assist with in depth knowledge and better understating of the Budget.
Request for information
1. Pictorial excess school places map to be provided to the sub-committee
The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusion:
1. The Sub-Committee was not reassured in the Councils ability to close the gap on the accumulated deficit on the high needs block