Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Finance & Business Operations Committee
Date 26th September 23
Time 5.30 pm
Minutes Membership Membership in attendance: G. Mills, J. Hoyland, J. Staniforth and P. Tucker.
In Attendance Members of the Senior Leadership Team:
D. Lucas, Vice Principal. People (VP, P)
P. Partridge, Executive Director of Finance (EDoF)

Clerk to the Board, T. Cottee
Apologies N. Stitch and R. Wilson.

41/23. Declarations of Interest


42/22. Election of Chair

Resolved: That Graham Mills be appointed Chair of the Committee.

Graham Mills in the Chair.

43/23. Minutes of Meeting Held 27 June 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 June 2023, be approved as a true and correct record.

44/23. Matters Arising

Minute Number 40/23. Risk

In response to a question, the EDoF provided an update on risks to student transport. The provider of the Telford bus route had gone into administration a week before the start of the 2023/24 Term. Another provider was now running the route although at a significantly increased cost. The college would review usage at Half Term and, given the increased number of students travelling from Telford, was likely to retain the service.

45/23. Human Resources & Development Annual Report (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 6)

The Committee reviewed a report (previously circulated) setting out progress made with strategic people management during the academic year 2022/23.

The Committee Chair commended the report as easy to read, well-structured and thorough.

The report focussed on progress made toward Strategic Development Plan 2021-2025, aims - to achieve a common culture and to always be the first choice for staff through -



      1. Building a Strong Connected Workforce
      2. Providing Excellent Leadership
      3. Make Available Strong Professional Development
      4. Providing Excellent Recognition and Reward.

In response to questions -

      • the VP, P confirmed that, as part of the college’s commitment to investing in the workforce, despite challenging financial times, it had chosen to retain the programme of tokens of appreciation, such as birthday cards personally signed by the P/CEO, Easter eggs and the Christmas party at English Bridge and the Summer BBQ at Welsh Bridge campuses. Staff appreciated this and felt valued as a result.
      • the college’s work on well-being continued to be a priority and contributed hugely to efforts to enhance its local and national reputation. This work had been recognised in the sector, as the college had been awarded the National Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) health and wellbeing award for 2023. In addition, this work had contributed to the award for Commitment to People won at this year’s Shropshire Chamber Business Awards.
      • The VP, P explained the resources available to staff to support their mental health and wellbeing. Extensive training on mental health had taken place; the HR Team Leader – People, was a trained counsellor. Use of the college’s In-house wellness action plans (WAPs) and stress risk assessments had proved invaluable when managing complex mental health issues. The employee assistance programme (EAP) focussed on the Mental Heath in the Work Place themes of mental, physical, and financial health and staff were assessed and signposted to the most relevant resources to support their effective return to work. The college also provided counselling support to meet specific needs, such as bereavement.
      • The VP, P explained the support extended to those who provided the college’s safeguarding services, including offering supervision opportunities, access to external counselling and talking therapy. Line managers were also encouraged to hold regular 1-2-1s and follow up how staff were coping with the challenges of the role. The Staff Governor, who was a Mental Health First Aider, confirmed that access to support was available if required.

The GVP – HR&D left the meeting at this point.

46/23. Budget 2023 – 2024 – Risk Analysis and Pressures and Period 12 Management Accounts and Draft 2022 – 2023 Outturn (Confidential Appendices - Agenda Item 7)

The Committee received the Period 12 Management Accounts (previously circulated). The Accounts had been circulated to all governors. The difference between the P12 position and Forecast out-turn related primarily to anticipated Achievement and Adult Education Budget (AEB) income. The Committee was advised of other changes made as part of the P12 position.

The Committee also received an update on forecast cashflows and that the £1m “floor” of immediately available planned cash remained in place as per the current Treasury Policy. However, there was potential to improve the Treasury returns by amending the Treasury Policy to allow for more active management by:

      • reducing the “floor” of immediately available planned cash to £500k and investing a further £500k at a c.5.2% rate offered by the college’s current bankers.
      • giving automatic notice on a set sum weekly.
      • placing funds not required within 32 days back on deposit each week.

This revised approach could yield a net benefit of up to £25k per annum at current rates.

The Committee, having discussed the benefits to this amendment, including increased returns which otherwise earned c 0.8% and having receiving assurance that the college would monitor the cash ‘floor’ weekly, agreed to the proposed amendment to the Treasury Policy.

RECOMMEND TO BOARD That the College’s Treasury Management Policy be amended.

ACTION: Item to Board

The EdoF also presented updates on –

      • 2023/24 key finance challenges and risks
          • Increased student transport costs and rebalanced staffing following the need to add new groups in some areas had added unbudgeted costs.
          • The Department for Education (DfE) had announced a public pay settlement of 6.5% for Teachers; however, there remained uncertainty over the actual percentage pay awards that would be agreed. Each extra 1% = £225k.
          • Exam costs presented a significant challenge, with the increase in qualifications requiring exams and possible further price increases from awarding bodies over which the college had no control.
          • Increasing costs of supporting bursary payments.
          • Continuing non pay costs inflation.
          • HE income was below budget target at this stage.
      • Estates Strategic developments
          • Over the summer, the college had met with “LocatED” DfE Estates consultants, who had now sought approval from the DfE to support elements of the college’s estate strategy around disposal opportunities, improvements to the Austin Building, Welsh Bridge Campus and space planning (all at no cost to the college). The Committee observed that this was a useful project and would provide additional input into the strategic management of the estate and could lead to capital funding for the college.
      • Estates summer work – condition surveys, space planning and improvements to the estate.
      • Estates Energy efficiency and Sustainability
          • The college committed to be net carbon zero by 2050.
          • The energy efficiency and sustainability measures already taken by the college had reduced the college’s C02 emissions by 27%.
          • However, the current cost of energy continued to reduce the amount of remaining funding to pay for staff, students and maintenance.

The P/CEO gave an update on the 2023/24 Post Enrolment, including an analysis of full-time enrolments by school type and location.

      • Significant growth in 16 – 18 enrolment’; this was welcomed. The college had secured an increased share of school leavers.
      • Apprenticeships had recruited slightly ahead of budget.
      • HE had under-recruited.

In response to questions, the P/CEO explained the college’s schools’ liaison programme and the challenges presented in engaging with schools with sixth forms.

47/22. Draft Committee Work Plan 2022 – 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8)

The Committee reviewed the Draft Workplan for 2023 – 2024 (previously circulated). The P/CEO requested that the HR Annual Report 2023 – 2024, be included on the agenda for the September 2024 meeting.

Resolved: That the Draft Workplan, as amended, be agreed.

48/23. Risk (Appendix - Agenda item 9)

The Committee examined those risks within its remit and agreed that they had either been identified and adequately discussed at the meeting. The EDoF explained that SLT was currently reviewing the Risk Register and the revised 2023– 2024 Strategic Risk Register would be presented to the Board at its next meeting.

49/23. Date of Next Meeting – Tuesday, 24 October 2023 from 5.30 p.m.

The meeting concluded at 7.25 p.m.