Children's Services Overview & Scrutiny Panel

Thursday, 23rd January 2014

The Overview and Scrutiny Panels cannot take decisions on behalf of the Council, but can review how policies and decisions are actually working once they have been agreed and are in place.

The Panels can also discuss and debate policies and plans which are under consideration.  The Cabinet member will then take account of the Panels views when matters are taken to Cabinet for decision.

Members of the public can put questions to the Overview and Scrutiny Panels on any issue at the meeting even if the issue is not on the agenda.

For further information about Overview and Scrutiny Panels including membership, agendas and minutes, see the Committees section of the Norfolk County Council website.

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Councillors to debate Childrens Services budget savings proposals

Councillors are to meet next week to discuss the public’s response to the Children’s Services proposals outlined in the county-wide budget consultation.

Members of Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel will meet on Thursday, 21 January to debate the Putting People First consultation, which details proposals to plug a £189m funding gap.

The 12-week consultation took place between September and December and looked at proposals to save £29m from the Children’s Services budget over the next three years.

Cabinet has pledged to protect and invest in frontline social work to ensure that issues identified by Ofsted around capacity and early help for families are addressed. However, savings need to be found elsewhere in the department to ensure that the council can deliver a balanced budget.

The challenge has arisen because of a £91m cut in government grant and increasing public demand on vital services.

Of the 4,400 or so responses to the consultation, about 1,756 related directly to Children’s Services. The council also received two petitions relating to the proposal to reduce the subsidy for post 16 transport, containing 1,579 signatures.

One of the most significant proposals focuses on increasing services to reduce the numbers of children coming into care, as well as reducing the cost of looking after children. This proposal was supported by 46% of respondents and opposed by nine percent. The remainder were unclear about their position.

Several of the respondents felt that the proposal made sense but raised concerns that children should not be put at risk by efforts to reduce the numbers in care.

Of the group responses to the consultation, the majority related to the proposal to reduce the budget to subsidise transport for 16 to 19-year-olds from £2.9m to £900,000 per year, from September 2014.

This would mean students would pay between £800 and £850 per year in the future, compared to the current £468. The fee for low income families would rise from £351 to between £600 and £638.

Those who responded raised concerns about the impact on the numbers of young people participating in education and said the affects would be felt disproportionally in rural areas.

Other proposals that received significant responses included the suggestion that the council looks for alternative ways to provide school crossing patrols.

The responses will be debated for the first time when the Overview and Scrutiny Panel meets at 2pm, next Thursday.

Cabinet’s final savings proposals will then go before a meeting of the full council on Monday, 17 February, when the 2014/15 council budget is due to be agreed.

Thursday’s meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel will also hear an update on the council’s strategy to reduce the numbers of looked after children and discuss Norfolk Family First, the county’s Troubled Families programme.