CONTEXT is key in understanding what needs to be scrutinised and what should not.

Members of Powys County Council's learning and skills scrutiny committee want more details to be put in reports so that they understand the issues that need to be addressed.

And that would make the long journeys to Llandrindod Wells that many councillors do, worthwhile.

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies (Conservative – Blaen Hafren), brought up the issue of reports which lack detail at the last meeting of the committee on Monday, November 18.

At the meeting the scrutiny committee was looking at overspends in various parts of the education service.

The figures under discussion ranged from £506,000 to £11,000 out of budgets dealing with a total of nearly £44 million.

Cllr Davies said: “It’s great to see why we’re overspending but I would like to see what we’re getting for each budget line.

“What’s the point of talking about an £11,000 overspend when we don’t know what we’re getting for £2.444 million.”

“I’m not having a dig at the service, but I’m sorry this is not benefitting anybody.

“It’s not the way I want to see it and I’m asking for your support.”

While the report officially says they have been authored by cabinet members, in this instance Cllr Phyl Davies, they are actually written by staff.

Cllr David Jones, (Independent – Guilsfield), said: “These figures are not very useful.

“Cllr Sandra (Davies) (Labour – Cwm-Twrch) has driven 50 miles to be here today, I have driven 40 odd miles to be here today, and the report author (Cllr Phyl Davies) says that these figures are not very useful.

“If you are going to produce a report for this committee at least you should have confidence that it’s helpful.”

Cllr Gwynfor Thomas (Conservative – Llansantffraid), another who has a long trip to Llandrindod Wells from his home, said: “I’m a little grumpy today.

“I can’t believe we called a meeting on a four page document.

“I know we found a lot to debate about from that four pages, I would rather have seen it added to another agenda for a couple of reasons.”

“We as councillors have a long way to travel and we are taking up officer time.

“We have covered finance a lot in the PIAP meeting a couple of weeks ago.”

Head of finance, Jane Thomas, said: “This is not a report breaking down exactly how we spend all the money on the education central budget.

“This is about monitoring where that budget is at this point of the year against the budget that’s set.

“It’s a different set of information, this report does not give you the level of detail you may want to scrutinise.”

She said that the way reports were written will be changed in the new year with more depth to looking at where the money is being spent rather than how it’s performing against a forecast budget.

The forecast overspend at the end of the year is:

  • School Service  – £506,000 overspend on a £16.304million budget
  • Schools Central – £11,000 overspend on a total budget of £2.444 million
  • School Improvement – £39,000 overspend on a total budget of ££3.110 million
  • Schools Operational Costs – £205,000 overspend on a total budget of £10.794million
  • Pupil inclusion – £58,000 overspend on a total budget of £4.970 million
  • Youth Services – £16,000 overspend on a total budget of £670,000
  • Schools delegated other – £176,000 overspend out of a budget of £5.684 million