Three-day budget probe feedback to Cabinet

A review of forecast overspends, improvements to foster carer recruitment and the introduction of mandatory face-to-face exit interviews,are among 12 recommendations published today in a report by Buckinghamshire County Council’s independent Budget Scrutiny Select Committee.

The report follows a three day Inquiry in January during which Cabinet Members were questioned on their £334 million draftrevenue budget plans for 2018/19 by the cross-party group of nine councillors.

The report, to be presented to the County Council Cabinet on Monday 12 February, recommends a detailed independent review of the £2.9m forecast overspends in Children’s Services, and Health & Wellbeing to improve the accuracy of spending forecasts.

It also recommends a benchmarking exercise on foster carer allowances and a review of independent agencies to boost recruitment, and that all senior staff undertake face-to-face exit interviews, with a promotion of online exit interviews for other staff to help recruitment and retention.

Among the other recommendations in the report:

•Monthly management accounting – instead of relying on forecasting – for all the County Council’s business units to provide early warning of both actual and forecast overspends.

•Clearer identification of the major costs of running the County Council to heighten transparency for councillors and the public.

•Tailoring all home-to-school transport to national statutory guidelines and phasing out discretionary transport to reduce pressure on an over-stretched budget.

•An e-book pilot study as part of an appraisal of options to look for more savings in Buckinghamshire’s library services.

•Asurvey of gullies to create an effective maintenance programme, and earmarking enough money for a weed management programme on pavements across the county.

Budget Scrutiny Select Committee Chairman David Watson said: “We recognised that the County Council has faced another very tough year with increasing financial pressures, yet is still managing to control its total expenditure, such that an underspend of £0.3m is forecast.

“This is testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff in making savings and looking for revenue generating opportunities on behalf of the residents and business communities of Buckinghamshire.

“The coming financial year looks to be even tougher, with the loss of Government revenue support and some of our business rates income, andour Committee wanted to make sure the proposed savings and service revisions, particularly front-line services, are sustainable – and that Cabinet Members can deliver what they say they can.”

The budget will be presented to the full County Council on Thursday 22 February.