Agenda and minutes
Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 7:00 pm
Venue: Salon - York House. View directions
Contact: Jessica Vine; 020 8891 7078; Email: email@example.com
To receive any apologies for absence, from members of the Committee.
Apologies for absence were received from Juliet Cassidy (Parent Governor Representative); Esther Mirrielees (Church Representative); Charles Hoseason, Nicholas Lait and Beverley Saunders (Co-opted Members).
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Members are requested to declare any interests orally at the start of the meeting and again immediately before consideration of the matter. Members are reminded to specify the agenda item number to which it refers and whether the interest is of a personal or prejudicial nature.
Members are also reminded of the requirements of Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 that they should declare and not vote on specified matters if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments.
No declarations were made.
To consider and approve the minutes of the last meeting on 15 May 2012 – attached.
The minutes of the meeting held on 15 May 2012 were received and approved as a correct record of proceedings.
[Under minute item 52 – Declarations of Interest – it was noted that Church Representative Andrew Cole had clarified his position in relation to agenda items 4a and 4b but that this had not constituted a declaration of interest.]
The presentation will update the Committee on progress with the establishment of Achieving for Children as a Community Interest Company (CIC) for the delivery of children’s services.
The Committee heard a presentation on the progress of the project to establish ‘Achieving for Children’ (a Community Interest Company to deliver local children’s services). The presentation was delivered by the Director for Education, Children’s and Cultural Services and the Chief Executive of the Council. The Director explained the background to the project and the aim to establish shared services across Richmond and Kingston. It was further explained that:
(i) Achieving for Children would be a social enterprise; recent government changes to VAT regulations for social enterprises had initially caused some concern and would need to be considered in the development of the proposals.
(ii) Another recent cause for concern was the Ofsted rating of Kingston’s Children’s Safeguarding services as ‘inadequate’. In this context Richmond’s Director for Education, Children’s and Cultural Services was now working as a joint Director for both boroughs for an interim period. Richmond’s Assistant Director for Specialist Children's Services was also currently working with Kingston Borough to address Ofsted’s concerns.
(iii) The aim of the Achieving for Children project was to reduce service management and procurement costs whilst protecting frontline services. Moreover, it was hoped that if the project was successful a wider range of services could be offered to residents (in line with the SEN task group’s recommendations).
(iv) In future, the project could be extended to allow the organisation to work more cohesively with the voluntary sector and other local authorities.
(v) Richmond Council needed to ensure that the priorities of the Children’s and Young People’s Plan were met and that the Plan reflected the Achieving for Children project.
(vi) Richmond and Kingston needed to agree on the scope for commissioning projects; to examine VAT and other tax issues; and to consider employment contract issues before progressing with the Achieving for Children project. However, the current priority was to address the issues highlighted at Kingston via the Ofsted report.
(vii) In preparation for Achieving for Children, the two authorities could work together on certain well performing areas such as Youth Offending services. The Councils already had a successful track record of providing education services to children across borough boundaries.
(viii) It was hoped that by working for a larger, more flexible enterprise such as Achieving for Children, well-performing staff members would be encouraged to remain within the organisation and would have better career opportunities.
In response to questions the Committee was advised that:
(i) The Director of Education, Children’s and Cultural Services was currently responsible for Richmond and Kingston boroughs and Richmond would not be neglected during a time of transition at Kingston. It was envisaged that this appointment would be trialled for approximately eight months before a permanent decision was made about the post. The Ofsted context made the work more challenging but this did not mean that joint working was impossible.
(ii) Whilst the exact nature of the Achieving for Children project was unique to Richmond and Kingston there were examples of other authorities, such as Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea, who were working towards delivering a shared service model. The Greenwich Leisure model was also an example of former Council services being delivered successfully via a social enterprise.
(iii) It was recognised that there would be challenges to face whilst establishing the project but it was hoped that the future benefits to Richmond residents would outweigh any initial difficulties. It was envisaged that once Achieving for Children was in operation its services could be marketed to other authorities and this would be a source of income: this could be reinvested for the benefit of local young people. A memorandum would need to be created to establish how any profits would be reinvested.
(iv) Although Richmond Council was commencing a full-scale commissioning programme, commissioning was not a new concept in local government nor in Richmond itself. This was seen as a means by which savings could be achieved without reducing the level of service provision.
(v) Before becoming an independent social enterprise Achieving for Children would initially be a Council owned social enterprise. The Council would need to make use of commissioning experts at this stage: this would require initial financial investment. However, this stage would also allow the Council to test the details of the contract.
(vi) It was important that Children’s Services and Education services remained integrated. It was deemed that the separation of these services had not worked well in Kingston.
(vii) The current Achieving for Children project was managed by a joint Committee between Richmond and Kingston but in future it could be overseen by a board of experienced individuals.
(viii) Despite a change in service delivery, accountability would be paramount and the Committee would retain a role in scrutiny of services. Above all it would be important to focus on outcomes in evaluating the new service.
(ix) The next step for Achieving for Children was the development of a business plan and a financial appraisal. These aspects needed to be viable before any commitment was made and could be reviewed by the Committee. At the present time it was difficult to predict the exact timescales for the project but the Committee would be updated and involved in the review of the project. The risks of the project would need to be explored fully before any commitment was made.
During discussions, Committee Members raised the following issues for future consideration:
(i) It was important that the service remained focused on providing the best outcome for Richmond’s residents regardless of challenges elsewhere.
(ii) There was a need to establish a contingency plan in case insurmountable problems arose with the Achieving for Children project. Some Members felt that the viability of alternative service delivery options should be examined.
(iii) The Council must ensure that in creating a social enterprise, and establishing the requisite commissioning framework, the Borough was not spending more than it was saving on the project.
(iv) It was perceived that in creating a commissioning contract the Council must avoid imposing an onerous level of bureaucracy on the enterprise, whilst also ensuring that there was no gap in the co-ordination of services.
(v) The structure and character of the Achieving for Children board would need to be examined carefully. In addition, the role of the Committee in scrutinising the work of the social enterprise would need to be clearly defined.
It was RESOLVED:
That the progress with the establishment of Achieving for Children as a Community Interest Company (CIC) for the delivery of children’s services (if feasible, in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) be noted.
To consider the work programme, for the 2012/13 municipal year.
It was RESOLVED:
That the work programme at Appendix 1 be noted with the addition of the following suggested items:
· Transition to Adult Services
· Update(s) on Achieving for Children
· Determination of admission arrangements / Availability of school places
· Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 Results
(The exact timing of these items to be confirmed at a meeting of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman)