11:28AM, Friday 20 December 2019
A focus on disadvantaged children in schools, care for the elderly and the council’s finances were all on the agenda at a council meeting on Tuesday.
Councillors met to debate the topics at York House in Sheet Street, Windsor.
At the meeting deputy cabinet chairman Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) presented a report on plans to refocus the priority of the School Improvement Forum around disadvantaged children.
Until now the focus of the forum has been improving Ofsted ratings, but 94 per cent of Royal Borough schools are rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ and none considered inadequate.
Cllr Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) said the forum would hone in on the barriers ‘that are restricting optimal attainment as we see, thankfully, with other children across the borough’.
Cllr Carroll, the lead member for adult social care, children’s services, health and mental health, also presented a report on proposals to change how the council commissions adult social care for elderly people who can no longer afford their own.
He said: “When you have someone who is paying for their own care, but then they run out of money, we have a legal requirement to look after that person, which is absolutely right.”
He added: “But as things stand at the moment we can end up having to pay money to effectively keep them in the care they decided to go into, which can be extremely more expensive than the care we commission.”
Between April and November 2019 the council claimed responsibility for 15 people in such circumstances, which cost about £500,000.
Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Lib Dems, Furze Platt) raised concerns that to ‘uproot’ elderly people from one care provider to another would have a ‘detrimental impact’ – a view echoed by Cllr Carole da Costa (WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth East).
Cllr Carroll explained that there are exceptional circumstances under the health and wellbeing principle that if it is determined a person should stay where they are, the council would honour that decision.
The report was amended on Cllr Neil Knowles’ (OWRA, Old Windsor) suggestion that an appeals process is incorporated into the report to ‘show a little bit of compassion to families dealing with this’.
The report was agreed.
Also at the meeting members were asked to review the process by which the council is paying-down its debt, which is projected to be £158million at March 31, 2020.
Cllr Knowles said he has asked about ‘the extent of the debt and the plan to repay the debt’ two or three times.
He said although there is talk of cash-flow and income forecasts ‘which indicates that everything will be fine’, he asked if members could be given a document showing this to ‘give a little bit of comfort that these things all add up’.
Lead member for finance, Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot & Sunninghill), said the income forecasts are a bit of a ‘moving feast’ but he and managing director of the Royal Borough, Duncan Sharkey, confirmed they would be published with budget papers
During members’ questions, Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) had a question about the council’s forecast £3.61million budget overspend.
She asked Cllr Hilton what assurances he can give that the figure will be mitigated.
Cllr Hilton said ‘there can be no certainties with demand of services’ and said that in the cabinet meeting tonight (Thursday) he will be declaring an additional £132,000 overspend.
Members questions asked at the meeting included one relating to the Borough Local Plan (BLP) from Cllr Ewan Larcombe (Ind, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury) who asked the total cost of the BLP to date.
Lead member for planning and Maidenhead, Cllr David Coppinger said there is not a precise figure because the BLP has been in development for a number of years.
He said costs incurred at the beginning of BLP process were about £600,000 and to get to the submission version in January 2018 cost about £850,000. The expected price of getting the plan re-submitted to the inspector in early 2020 is about £540,000.
Cllr Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) told the council there are 766 empty homes in the Royal Borough and put forward a motion for them to be brought back into use. The motion also included removing this number of homes from greenbelt sites allocated for housing in the BLP.
Cllr Coppinger said: “The Strategic Housing Market Area Assessment (SHMAA) which informs the housing figure in the local plan already takes into account the fact there are empty homes in the borough as part of the natural turnover in the housing market.
“In any case the housing figure is a minimum target and seeking to remove 766 units from the projected housing requirement would be without justification and would potentially render the plan unsound for failing to meet its objectively assessed housing needs.”
The motion was defeated.
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