Agenda item

Questions on Cabinet Minutes

(time limit 15 minutes)


22nd August 2022

21st September 2022


The Council was requested to note the minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on the undermentioned dates, to receive questions on any items within the minutes from members of the Council that are not members of the Cabinet and to receive appropriate responses from Cabinet members. The minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on 22nd August 2022 and 21st September 2022 were submitted.


Members asked the following questions: -


a.    Question from Councillor Kenyon:

With reference to page 51, Cabinet Minutes of 21st September 2022, Item 6 on Oldham’s response to the cost of living - Would the Cabinet Member explain why the Council’s cost-of-living response consistently mentions a budget of £3 million, happily inviting hard working families across the borough to believe that they will be receiving £3 million worth of help this year when in fact, the budget is less than half that, at £1.2 million.

Would the Cabinet Member also like to explain why the council’s plan for warm banks (a liberal democrat amendment) involves keeping warm spaces like libraries, open for not one minute longer than their standard opening hours?  The library in my own ward of Lees, remains open for the exact same number of hours in November, when it has been a so-called warm bank, as it did in September.


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied that, we have committed over three million pounds of new funding to help Oldhamers through the cost-of-living crisis. We know that this crisis isn’t going away anytime soon, so we have designed a package of support that will be there for residents over the next two years. This investment will help our communities to navigate a really challenging winter but will also provide longer-term help. We want to ensure that our most vulnerable residents don’t fall into crisis and are accessing all the support they are entitled to. To do this we need to build support that helps people now and, in the future, not just over the next few months.

With regard to warm banks, it’s laughable to suggest that that the Council only did this because of an opposition amendment. We have been planning for this since I called for a cost-of-living summit, which we held in July. Warm banks have always been at the heart of our response, providing a safe space that residents can visit in order to stay warm, without having to turn their heating on at home. In addition to this, residents will be able to get a warm drink, and a wrap-around offer is being put in place to ensure residents can either access information and advice directly or be sign-posted to where this is available. We are providing a comprehensive training offer to all staff, supporting them to talk to users to really understand their needs, so we can continue to shape the offer around our residents. The initial offer is based around the Council’s Libraries and is up and running now. We are working with community groups and partners to develop a wider programme of spaces, including community centres, churches, Social Housing facilities and more, with an ambition to ensure there is a minimum of three locations available in every District. Our current offer provides good coverage both geographically and in terms of opening hours, though the offer will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with our staff actively monitoring usage, so we will know if we need to offer longer opening hours in the future.


b.    Question from Councillor Al-Hamdani

On item 9, page 48: Community Health and Adult Management was reporting an "adverse variance" or overspend on budget of £7.582m; and Children's Social Care was recording £4.137m.

Oldham has some of the worst levels of poverty and its associated problems in Greater Manchester. This is a demand-led service, and levels of demand have continued at a high rate since the pandemic, showing no sign of slowing.

Third party providers out of borough for specialist care services are very expensive and provide a service in what is essentially a seller’s market. Which of these was a surprise to the administration, and when will it commit to a more accurate forecasting that accounts for these factors?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, replied, that the adverse variances for both Community Health and Adult Social Care and Children’s Services to which the question refers, relate to pressures associated with the legacy costs of COVID.  Across the two services, this adverse variance is £11.989m.  Although direct funding from Central Government to support the impact of COVID has not been extended into 2022/23, the pressures it has created have continued.

When the Council set its budget for 2022/23, an assessment was made of the likely on-going impact of COVID, based on the experience of 2021/22.  A sum of £12m was held centrally, funded from the Council’s own resources to offset any COVID legacy costs.  This funding was not directly allocated to services as there was no certainty where the pressures would fall. Therefore, the adverse variance of £11.989m is completely offset by the £12m corporate resource and shows accuracy of forecasting.

It is true that Adult Social Care and Children’s Services are demand led and financial pressures are being experienced, especially regarding external placements for children.  This is the same for every Local Authority with such responsibilities.  Every effort is made to set budgets accurately and manage the resources across the Council although there will inevitably be some variances especially at a time where there is so much volatility in the economy and demand in the system, much of which could not have been anticipated when the initial budget was set.


c.    Question from Councillor Woodvine:

With reference to page 51, Cabinet Minutes of 21st September 2022, Item 6 on Oldham’s response to the Cost-of-Living Crisis - Would the Leader of the Council be able to explain how much the booklet, referred to therein had cost to produce out of the £3million additional investment received from the government and given that the Council was forecast to record a £6million overspend, would the Leader agree that this money could have been better utilised elsewhere?


Councillor Chadderton, supported the allocation of funding and added that the cost of living crisis was so serious that it demanded even more additional funding to be made available to alleviate some of the acute problems that the Borough was likely to face during the 2022/23 winter months.


d.    Question from Councillor Hobin

Further to the Leader’s answer to question C above, could she explain how she has the support of the borough?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied that this had been determined as a result of direct feedback she and Cabinet members, had received as a result of conversations with people and groups and organisations across the Borough.



1.    The Minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on 22nd August 2022 and 21st September 2022 be noted.

2.    The questions and responses provided thereon be noted.

Supporting documents: