Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Finance & Business Operations Committee
Date 30th March 21
Time 5.34 pm
Minutes Membership In attendance by electronic device and contributing towards the meeting quorum, in accordance with Instrument 12. (Members may count towards the quorum if they are able to be present by electronic or digital communication (including attendance by video conferencing or telephone conferencing).
R. Heath, G. Mills, D. Pulford, J. Staniforth (Principal/CEO), P. Tucker and R. Wilson.
In Attendance In attendance by electronic device
Member of the Senior Leadership Team: P. Partridge, Finance Director (FD)

Clerk to the Board, T. Cottee
Apologies None.

10/21. Declarations of Interest

R. Heath declared a standing interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.

11/21. Minutes of Meeting Held 09 February 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 09 February 2021, be approved as a true and correct record, subject to the following clarification –

Confidential Minute Number 06/21 – Estates Report

After clarification from the P/CEO, the Committee AGREED that the Minutes of Confidential Minute Number 06/21 of the Meeting held on 09 February 2021, to be changed to “The Committee had agreed that any negotiations going forward should ensure that ...” and that the Minutes be amended accordingly.

12/21. Matters Arising


13/21. Management Accounts – 28 February 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 5)

The Committee considered a report (previously circulated) with respect to the management accounts to 28 February 2021, which highlighted the key results, measures, and risks. All governors had been supplied with a copy of the Report.

The Committee reviewed the key changes to the forecast outturn –

      • the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had confirmed an additional in-year growth allocation for core 16-18 year old funding to reflect the exceptional in-year growth in student numbers and additional funding premium for high value courses, which had driven the significant favourable variance for the year.

In response to a question, the FD confirmed that there was no additional funding for the first 100 extra students in 2020 – 2021; the additional in-year funding had been provided for the additional students over that number.

The Committee welcomed the additional funding as it offset the increased costs of delivery and the upwards pressure on the 2020-21 year pay budget due to additional unplanned groups being run.

In response to a question on how the additional funds would be used, the P/CEO and FD hoped that it would support the College’s cash reserves in the short term and ultimately support investment in additional facilities to meet the needs of greater numbers of students.

      • Since the March 2021 month end, the ESFA had announced that it intended to claw-back any delivery under 90% of colleges’ Adult Education Budget (AEB) allocation for 2020-21. The forecast outturn had anticipated this position, which would limit the impact, although the amount clawed back may be further impacted by any greater under delivery in individual devolved areas.

The national position taken by the ESFA was frustrating given the challenges presented to all colleges by Covid. The Association of Colleges continued to lobby on this matter and the FD had spoken to the College’s ESFA liaison. However, it was unlikely that the ESFA would change its position as the decision was being driven by the Treasury.

      • The ESFA allocated all colleges 16-19 catch up funding in response to the COVID disruption last year. Whilst this had increased the College’s 16-19 allocation, there remained a risk that under-spending of catch-up funding could lead to clawbacks. In addition, the College continued to be awarded Capacity and Delivery Funding to support work placements.
      • Apprenticeship enrolments and hence income was running well below the levels planned for at the start of the year, due to the impact of Covid. The full year outturn, therefore, continued to be reduced to reflect the lower level of existing enrolments and the remaining known apprenticeships yet to start.
      • As Lockdown #3 had limited student travel there was likely to be an under-allocation of bursary costs in-year. Bursary funding received would be carried forward and utilised appropriately in future years.
      • The College Collaboration Fund grant due from Newcastle and Stafford College Group as part of ongoing collaboration work had been appropriately deployed.
      • Advance Learner Loans activity was forecast to remain ahead of budget, but the forecast income had been reduced. HE income remained marginally behind budget. The FD reported that, to date, HE student engagement had remained positive – a tribute to the resilience and commitment of students and staff; however the College would not be in a position to upgrade the forecast with confidence until the start of Term 3 when the final 50% of student loan fees became due for those students who were still continuing.
      • The pay forecast allowed for increased backpay for support staff to bring their cost-of-living award into line with the teacher pay settlement. Both these pay awards are national settlements.
      • Higher than planned recruitment of 16-19 students in August 2020, had resulted in additional teaching groups with a corresponding increase in pay costs during 2020-21. Due to the lag nature of 16-19 funding this generated an in-year cost increase that was not offset by additional income in 2020-21.
      • Exams costs forecast had been reduced to budget reflecting lower activity but did not yet reflect any expectation or potential for rebates on exams fees due to the changes to planned exams in 2021.
      • The improved forecast cash position reflected delays in exams registration expenditure and other purchase ledger expenditure. Forecast 2021-22 cashflows were likely to be improved due to positive enrolment in August 2020, resulting in higher than planned 16-19 income in 2021-22; however, the Committee acknowledged significant other risks remained which could affect this position, such as the disruption of Coronavirus, and the current high level of uncertainty inherent at this stage and the additional pay and support costs going forward.

In response to question, the P/CEO confirmed that the College would prioritise access for students who would need to demonstrate completion of practical elements to progress to employment or apprenticeships. It would provide additional practical sessions (for example, for vocational courses offering a Licence to Practice qualification), to ensure students completed their courses to expectations.

In response to a question, the FD explained that he would provide the ESFA with a revised forecast on the College’s cash position to July 2022. The FD confirmed that the current forecast Health Score was 230.

In response to a question on staff wellbeing and resilience, the P/CEO referred to his report to Board, which had set out details of how the College had supported and recognised staff during the last very challenging year.

In response to a question, the P/CEO provided an update on the development of the new Staff Forum, the first meeting of which would be held on 31 March 2021. The purpose of the Forum was to improve dialogue and understanding and the first meeting would discuss questions around what the College did well and what it could improve. The Board Chair hoped that the Forum would provide feedback to staff.

In response to a question on whether the College should budget for a possible resurgence of Covid, the FD explained that this would be taken into account as part of 2021 – 2022 Budget Planning, particularly informed by the College’s experience of dealing with the costs associated with the pandemic during 2020 – 2021.

Resolved: That, having considered the report, the Committee received the Management Accounts to 28 February 2021.

14/21. Termly Newsletter from the Further Education Commissioner (Appendices – Agenda Item 6)

The Committee reviewed the Newsletter and a report on the College’s position with respect to the FE Commissioner’s benchmarks (previously circulated). It was noted that the college performed strongly in respect of six of the seven benchmarks. The College’s performance against the staff pay as a percentage of income indicator compared well to the sixth form college sector average, though it was 72% compared with the 70% benchmark set by the FEC.

The Board Chair observed that the more pressing issue for the College, rather than seeking to reduce its staff pay as a percentage of income, was to determine the nature and extent to which existing teaching space was sufficient and the work required to reconfigure space in time for September 2021.

15/21. Risk (Appendix - Agenda item 7)

As part of the discussions on the College’s Risk Register (previously circulated) agreed by Board (Board Min No. 19/20 refers), the Committee examined those risks within its remit to ensure that they have either been identified or adequately discussed at the meeting.

With respect to FBO 18 (English Bridge heating system pipework), the FD reported that exploratory work would be undertaken in the summer.

The Committee noted the rising risk level with respect to Board Risk1 (Risk of disruption to learning from strike action). The impact of ongoing strike action had not yet been factored into the forecast and while this was expected to reduce pay costs this was also likely to adversely impact AEB delivery further due to disruption to the College’s Trade Union Studies activity

An additional risk (F&BO 20 - Risk that teaching/workshop space is systematically or significantly insufficient to meet demand by more than 2 groups of students in any year) had been added to the Register. The FD reported that he had prepared a business case proposing investment in additional equipment to support expansion of the College’s Engineering provision, with the intention of offering additional places to applicants from September 2021. The Committee AGREED that this report be circulated to all Committee members for review before the next Committee meeting with a view to approval of the additional investment and the corresponding increase in the 2020 – 2021 Capital Budget, to allow the spend in year.

16/21. Date of Next Meeting – 25 May 2021 @ 5.30 p.m. Venue – tbc.

The meeting concluded at 6.50 p.m.