The panel commended the new report format and commented that the information presented was now more accessible and understandable.
The Head of Strategy, Information and Governance and the Head of Financial Planning provided OSB with an overview of the Council's budget and performance position at Quarter 1 against the Council's Strategic Plan.
Broadly speaking, the Council's financial position was positive although there were some pressures in Children's Social Care. The Chair queried if there were any actions in place to mitigate those pressures and it was noted initiatives to mitigate thos pressures included a Placement Panel that was looking at individual costs of residential care placements and the Believe in Families Transformation programme. It was also noted such initiatives were not taking part in isolation and were all part of a joined up approach.
It was agreed that representatives from Children's Services should attend a future meeting of OSB to discuss their financial pressures and actions being put in place to mitigate them.
A Member commented that the number of children in care was very high and this pressure was also being felt regionally, and nationally, with Local Authorities exploring ways of collaborative working to combat the issue. It was also commented that, given the financial pressures in Children's Care, Members of OSB and Chairs of Scrutiny Panels should be more involved with decisions made by service areas to faciliate effective scrutiny processes.
The Quarter 1 position also showed there had been an acceleration of capital schemes resulting in 13% of capital investment brought forward from 2019/20 budgets. The Council's borrowing remained within agreed limits and the investment strategy received an additional £9.1 million from various grants.
Performance against the Strategic Plan was good, albeit with only 1 financial quarter into delivery. It was commented that until the Social Regeneration strategy was put into place there would be uneven performance in this regard. Issues surrounding the Social Regeneration agenda included life expectancy, Health Inequalities and the link between this and an individual's financial circumstances.
It was queried if the introduction of Universal Credit would affect the Council's budgets. It was noted that there had been an impact on Children's Care and this would need to be monitored.
It was queried if growth in population and housing developments would also have an impact on demand within Adult Social Care and Children's Care. It was confirmed that a growth in population was being projected and these factors would likely have an impact on demand. It was agreed that Children's and Adult Services would be invited to attend OSB to provide an update on this matter.
A Member commented that the Director of Adult Social Care had previously reported the South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was now in special measures and how it may potentially look to the Local Authority to bridge any gaps in service provision.
A discussion took place regarding Continuing Health Care provision and potential pressures on Council budgets. It was clarified that funding for this is a negotiation between the Local Authority and CCG and in cases where disputes arose there was a possibility of legal action being taken. It was agreed that the Health Scrutiny Panel would examine this issue further as part of its work programme.
A Member updated OSB on recent structural changes to regional CCGs, namely that 5 Accountable Officers had been merged into a single Accountable Officer who had responsibility across a wider geographic area ranging from Hambleton district in North Yorkshire to Durham Dales.
It was queried how risk mitigation was demonstrated using the new risk format. It was clarified that a detailed risk register is maintained showing risk controls and could be provided should it be requested by Members.
It was noted that actions in the performance report could be more preventative in nature if possible.
For Children's Services to explore ways to regularly update Scrutiny Chairs of issues within the department.
For Children's Care to attend a future meeting of OSB to discuss the department's financial pressures and actions being taken to mitigate them, including the Believe in Families transformation programme.
Children's and Adult Services to attend a future meeting of OSB to discuss the Department's respective approaches to the impact of Universal Credit and future housing growth.
Health Scrutiny Panel to examine the issue of Continuing Health Care budgets.