Response to UNITE questions submitted at Full Council on 21 May 2014

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Q 1 Support Services for Education (SSE)

1 a i) There will be additional costs (increased costs of overheads for the new entity, whatever form e.g. commercial rents, Business Rates/NNDR, tax liabilities (VAT, Corporation), insurance etc associated with both the SSE models, how is it envisaged that these be funded?

A combination of

·         increases in prices to all SSE customers to ensure the delivery of services is not subsidised but fully cost recovering,

·         a review of the potential to grow the service offer/customer base to achieve more income

·         a review of overheads to reduce these where possible – this might be more achievable if SSE is externalised

1 a ii) Are income streams predictable and measurable? 

Services provided to schools through the SSTEP process are measurable and predictable to the extent that we have a history of previous buying patterns by schools.  However this is only a guide as schools have the choice to buy from elsewhere.

Other sources of income relate to

·         the budget the LA has to commission statutory services – this is dependent on the annual MTFP process

·         Central DSG which is subject to the annual MTFP and discussions at the Schools Forum

·         Grants – the position here varies

1 b) Will these costs have to be met through staff reductions, redundancies, reduced hours etc or is it envisaged that charges to Schools will be increased to cover these costs?  

As set out above

1 c) Will staff have any options regarding (if there is?) a transfer, e.g. redeployment, secondment, TUPE, redundancy? 

We shall follow a full staff consultation process which would examine all the appropriate options open to staff.

1 d) Has the scope of services been updated and consulted/discussed with parents, (students) and professional bodies etc…? 

A range of briefing sessions with headteachers, unions, business managers, Governors and Early Years settings has been/will be taking place between March and June 2014.  This includes discussion of the current in-house scope and various options.

The scope has not been discussed with parents or students.

1 e) Will this Council follow the best practice example of Avon & Somerset Police for custody services, where the in-house bid (with a service innovation & improvement plan) was retained until all bids were in, to act as a cost baseline comparator and to ensure best value? 

(Note: The Police found that the in-house bid was significantly cheaper than the external bids (and with lower risk); had the in-house bid been ruled out as a viable option early on in the procurement process, then the costs to the taxpayer would have risen and the innovation and improvement skills in-house would have been lost.)

The current in-house service model is being used as a comparator for the potential externalised models. A Business Improvement Plan is currently under development by the in-house unit.

1 f) Will SSE be subject to Ofsted Inspections? 

SSE is a provider of support services to schools and other settings and therefore would not be subject to an Ofsted inspection.

1 g) What contract/service lengths are being considered (4+ years?) 

The Cabinet decision about the future of SSE will be taken in September. Contract lengths have not yet been considered.

1 h) What will be the governance mechanisms to deal with “disputes” between schools/parents/the Local Authority (and private sector contractors)?

Development of the appropriate ‘client’ side is currently under discussion.  Decisions on the appropriate governance mechanisms are part of this discussion.

1 i) How will SCC be accountable at Special Education Needs (SEN) Tribunals?

In exactly the same way as it is now.

1 j) How will the current (computer) systems be managed/changed (maintenance, capital investment, licences and operating costs)?

Whilst in-house there is no change to the current position for SSE.  Discussions are taking place to clarify the potential impact of an externalisation.

1 k) If certain services are subsequently retained (post service set up) how will changes in services be managed and monitored?

That would be dependent on the service.

1 m) Will the proposed decrease in (MTFP) Finance and Business Development “costs” equate to a like for like increase in SSE “costs”?

Whilst it remains in-house SSE will be subject to the same MTFP processes as other services within the Council. 

1 n) Which service model will maximise transparency and disclosure (e.g. Freedom of Information)?

Regardless of the model that is chosen, transparency and disclosure will remain the same.

1 o) If the “partner” model is “chosen” how will the scrutiny and transparency arrangements be put in place to maximise public accountability?

This would be determined through the contractual arrangements with the partner.

1 p) When is it expected for SSE to be fully functioning?   

SSE has been functioning as an in-house business unit since 1st April 2014. If a decision is taken in September 2014 to externalise the unit it is expected this would be implemented during 2015 – the timescale would be dependent on the model.

1 q) Are these services (approximately) currently in scope 

·         School Improvement; including a dedicated school improvement advisory team, curriculum support, school data and assessment and school governor support;

·         Curriculum Enrichment; including digital media facilities, outdoor learning, school library and music services;

·         Inclusion Services and Learner Support: including educational psychology and Special Educational Needs;

·         Workforce Training and Development; including leadership, supporting and promoting continuous professional development and working with Newly Qualified Teachers;

·         Business Management and Resources; including finance, contracts, quality management, personnel and resources?

The services currently in-scope are:

 

Educational Effectiveness

School Improvement

Early Years Improvement

ELIM/IT

Governor Support

Professional Learning Music

SORLS

Resources for Learning

 

Educational Support Services

 

Educational Psychology

Education Attendance

Ethnic Minority Achievement Support

School Admissions

SEN Casework

Learning, Sensory, Physical Services

Autism and Communication Support

 

Business Services

Human Resources

Health and Safety

Finance

Contract Support

Ask a question at a Council meeting

http://www.somersetconsults.org.uk/consult.ti/councilquestion/answerQuestionnaire?qid=2084387

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