Consideration was given to the report which outlined the current and projected overspend on the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and the recovery plans in place to enable Rotherham to operate within its annual allocation and reduce the deficit over future years. The report also outlined the national picture on the High Needs Block as part of the overall Dedicated Schools Grant and the additional funding the Government was investing in education as part of its spending review.
Rotherham had been a relatively low funded authority and had seen significant pressures on the High Needs Block for many years. The High Needs Budget allocation had increased year on year but, partly due to Rotherham’s low funding baseline compared to neighbouring boroughs and nationally, the budget uplifts had not been sufficient to match the acceleration in demand and increase in the cost of provision. In 2015/16 the High Needs in-year deficit was £1m, however, since then in the financial years up to 2019/20, the annual High Needs Block deficit had been around £5m with an overall DSG deficit of £19.89m as at the 31st March, 2020.
Following significant negotiations between Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) and Department of Education (DfE), a Safety Valve Intervention agreement had been developed to support Rotherham to address
its long term issues linked to High Needs funding deficit, including investment
from DfE of £20.53m across the 5 years of the agreement. The Council had also requested capital investment to deliver its long term strategic plan and had been awarded £4.3m above the annual High Needs capital allocations (circa £9m, £3m over the next 3 years). Due to the scale and remit of the project, the Council had also requested funding for a team to deliver the project. As part of the agreement the Council would receive recurrent funding of £385k per annum across the next 4 years of the Safety Valve. As part of this investment the Council was also looking at supporting delivery of the project through a dedicated resource to project manage the program and enhance the SEND commissioning offer in the Borough.
The Dedicated Schools Block Central Reserves deficit at the end of the 2021/22 financial year was £12.84m, which after taking account of DSG reserves required in the 2022/23 financial plan was still on target with the DSG management plan.
Following discussions it was confirmed that an annual update on the Dedicated Schools Grant would be provided to Audit Committee. Updates had to be provided to the DFE every year. Officers also confirmed that the Council was on track to meet its targets.
It was agreed that officers would provide the Chair with the figures that showed that the Council could continue to meet the growing need for support whilst reducing the deficit. Discussions were also held on the impact of the withdrawal of the School Block funding.
Resolved:- (1) That the actions being taken to manage the Dedicated School Grant deficit in Rotherham be noted.
(2) That the additional funding allocated to Rotherham through the Department for Education’s Safety Valve Programme be noted.