Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Finance & Business Operations Committee
Date 7th February 23
Time 5.30 pm
Minutes Membership G. Mills (Chair), D. Pulford, N. Stitch, J. Staniforth, P. Tucker and R. Wilson.
In Attendance Member of the Senior Leadership Team:
P. Partridge, Executive Director of Finance (EDF)

Clerk to the Board, T. Cottee
Apologies None.

01/23. Declarations of Interest


02/23. Minutes of Meeting Held 06 December 2022 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved:  That the Minutes of the meeting held on 06 December 2022, be approved as a true and correct record. 

03/23. Matters Arising


04/23. Period 5 Management Accounts (Appendix – Agenda Item 5)

The Committee considered a report (previously circulated to all governors) on the Management Accounts to 31 December 2022, which highlighted the key results, measures, and risks.  

The EDF explained that the Education & Skills Funding Authority (ESFA) and FE Commissioner (FEC) had confirmed their intention to change the method of calculation of colleges’ Financial Health Scores for the 2022/23 Financial Year, making changes to how the EBITDA and Current Ratio scores were to be calculated.  To achieve a Financial Health score of “good” under the new approach a college must score more than 170 points.  The Committee noted that, due to the capital investments started prior to the financial year end and the under-delivery of Adult Education driven by the pandemic, the college’s Revised Financial Health score for 2021-22, would have been 165 points and a grade of “Requires Improvement”.  The Committee observed that the new method of calculation would provide a challenge to the college achieving ‘Good’ Financial health in 2023-24.  In response to a question, the EDF explained that, anecdotally, it would appear that some college’s financial health scores had been detrimentally affected as a result of the recalculation. However, this was yet to be verified as the ESFA sector financial benchmarking data had yet to be released.

Regarding the management accounts, the EDF explained –

      • The forecast for Other than High Needs - Council Element 3 funding had been revised downwards to reflect lower student numbers and levels of support needed for these students, with a corresponding reduction in forecast staff costs to reflect the lower levels of support required.  The High Needs Team would review resources to ensure they remained within their funding bracket, whilst ensuring students received the support they required.  In response to questions, the P/CEO explained that the High Needs Team featured a mix of permanent and Agency teaching assistants (TAs), which gave the college flexibility to revise resources when required, as did the rate of turnover amongst TAs in the Team. 
      • Regarding Apprenticeships, the budget income remained achievable, but with an increasing risk of a shortfall.  
      • The college’s AEB funded courses had enrolled strongly, boosted by National Skills Fund (NSF) funded activity.  This reflected a significant recovery from 2021-22, which had been significantly impacted by the pandemic. 
      • The provision of one-off additional capital funding from the Department for Education (DfE) during December 2022, relieved the immediate pressure to conserve cash in/for 2023/24. 
      • The college had secured a number of additional contracts, including specialist engineering courses and adult numeracy. 
      • The investment in the café facilities at English Bridge had driven the significant increase in gross catering income.  Some of this was offset by the rising cost of food.
      • Additional income had been forecast to reflect the final revenue funding for the SDF1 project and ongoing revenue funding for the creation of new courses and delivery of EV and Air Source Heating training as part of the SDF2 project.  The P/CEO observed that these additional income streams were of added value as the college could demonstrate its contribution to local skills needs and work with partners.

In response to a question, the P/CEO explained that the Director of Employment Engagement had recently attended the opening of the In-Comm Apprenticeship Facility at Telford.  Whilst the college was mindful of a competitor moving a facility close by, currently, there appeared to be no incursion by the new facility into the college’s employer clients.

05/23. Estates Strategy Progress Report and Capital Bids Verbal Update (Confidential Appendix, Agenda Item 7)

The Committee reviewed the Estate Strategy Progress Report (previously circulated) and an update on the various capital bids being pursued by the college.

As referred to in the management accounts, during December 2022, two additional capital allocations had been announced; Additional Energy Efficiency Capital Funding which the college could decide how best to invest on energy efficiency measures, with discretion to spend on other capital projects and Additional FE Reclassification Capital to be paid in April/May 2023.

The EDF gave an update on the estates capital bids submitted or in progress:

      • Bids for T Level (wave 5) grant funding stream have been submitted on 3 February 2023. The bids comprised two projects at the London Road Campus; Expansion of construction facilities and the relocation and refurbishment of media, health and social care and childcare to better use space in the building and to provide better facilities for students.  The first bid was a contingency in case the post 16 capacity bid for this scheme was unsuccessful.
      • the college had received Special Equipment Allocation funding to support the development of its T Level provision.
      • SDF2 funding had been confirmed for the extension and refurbishment work required at the London Road Campus to create additional teaching space and equipment for renewable energy courses and provision.

In response to questions on how the college intended to treat the additional capital allocations received, the EDF explained that a proportion of the Additional Energy Efficiency Capital Funding had been spent on the purchase of Voltage Optimisation equipment and the college was looking to improve the efficiency of air conditioning units related to the operating of IT Server and Switch rooms at the London Road Campus through investing in air conditioning controller units designed to maximise efficiency.  

The Committee commended the management of the recent high river levels during January 2023.  Due to the improvements made over the last three years the impact of flooding on the lower ground floor was minimal. 

Gas savings at the London Road Campus reflected both the more active management of heating and the renewal of single glazed windows with modern double glazing over the summer.   Consultants were due to complete heat decarbonisation plans by the end of January 2023 for buildings at London Road Campus, for the Wakeman Building at English Bridge and for the Quarry Building at Welsh Bridge.  These reports were fully funded by a Salix energy efficiency grant and would inform the college’s future investment in energy efficiency and decarbonisation of its heating systems.

06/23. College Financial Regulations Review (Appendix – Agenda item 7)

The Committee reviewed minor revisions made to the College’s Financial Regulations (previously circulated) to ensure they remained robust and effective.

Having reviewed the recommended revisions, the Committee:

Resolved:  That the College Financial Regulations, as revised,  be recommended to Board.

07/23. Health & Safety Termly Report 

The Committee reviewed the termly health and safety report (previously circulated).

The Health & Safety link governor had been circulated with a copy of the report and the Committee Chair reported his comments and that he had recently undertaken his termly Link visit to the Health & Safety Officer and EDoF.

The Committee noted that:

      • All outstanding items from previous health and safety audits had been followed up and completed.
      • The new online reporting formats to encourage first aid and observation, hazard & near miss reporting would be published in full shortly.

08/23. 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 2022– 2023 Strategic Risk Register would be presented to the Board at its next meeting and the updated risks would, from that point, be included on subsequent committees’ agendas.

09/23. Additional Items of Business 

The P/ CEO and EDF presented the following additional items of business:
National Education Union (NEU) Industrial Action
The NEU had carried its ballot for strike action and a day of action took place on 01 February 2023.  The college remained open, with minimal impact on students.

College Energy Contract
In early January 2023, the college amended its energy contract for April 2023 – March 2024.  The revised agreement spanned two years from April 2023 to March 2025, but at a significantly reduced rate for April 2023 to March 2024.  This is expected to reduce the initial forecast cost of energy over the 12 months to March 2024.  The college was now working over to purchase energy for 2025-26 over the coming two years to procure future energy costs at more beneficial rates for 2025-26 and beyond.  Notwithstanding this, energy efficiency and reduction remained a key priority. 

09/23. Date of Next Meeting – Tuesday, 21 March 2023 at 5.30 p.m.  Venue - tbc.

The meeting concluded at 6.33 p.m.