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COMMUNITY LIAISON COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of an Extraordinary Meeting held on 19th November, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor K.J. Geary (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Councillors Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, N.P. Hodges, Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas, C.J. Williams and M.R. Wilson.

 

Also present:  Councillors N. Moore and G. Roberts.

 

Representatives from Town and Community Councils: P. Carreyett (Llandough Community Council); P. King (Llandough Community Council); M. Cuddy (Penarth Town Council), G. Smith (Llanmaes Community Council); A. Robertson (Dinas Powys Community Community Council); J. Marks (Michaelston le Pitt with Leckwith Community Council); C. Frost (Wenvoe Community Council); R. Sheppard (Wick Community Council), G. Teague (Llanfair Community Council); J. Harris (Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council); M. Hurst (Llandow Community Council); C. Jones (St. Nicholas and Bonvilston Community Council); J. Parry (Peterston Super Ely Community Council), A. Barnaby (St. Athan Community Council); M. Marsh (Llantwit Major Town Council); J. Evans (Barry Town Council).

 

 

615     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors C.P.J. Elmore (Chairman), Ms. B.E. Brooks, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, R.F. Curtis, H.J.W. James R.L. Traherne (Vale of Glamorgan Council) and Mr. M. Garland (Sully and Lavernock Community Council).

 

 

616     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

617     RESHAPING SERVICES - A NEW CHANGE PROGRAMME FOR THE COUNCIL -

 

The Head of Performance and Development informed the Committee that Cabinet had considered the report at its meeting on 3rd November which provided an update on the development of the Reshaping Services Change Programme. The Community Liaison Committee had itself received its first report on the programme at a meeting in September 2014 and the comments from that Committee had been detailed in paragraph 29 of the report for Cabinets information.

 

The Reshaping Services Programme was the Council’s proactive response to Central Government’s austerity drive that had created a period of unprecedented financial pressures for the public sector.  It was clear that the scale of the challenges to come would mean that business 'as usual’ however well managed, would not be enough.  The challenge was therefore to consider alternative delivery models for services across the Council.

 

The report before Committee provided details of the work undertaken to date and how it was proposed that the Strategy be implemented.  In developing the Reshaping Services Programme the Council recognised the importance of working with a range of stakeholders to identify alternative approaches to service delivery. 

 

The initial consultation process had been extremely valuable and the Leader who was also present at the Community Liaison Committee meeting took the opportunity to reiterate his thanks to all those who had been involved to date. 

 

At the Community Liaison Committee meeting in September the following recommendations had been made to Cabinet :

  • 'That an audit is undertaken of the services currently provided by the Town and Community Councils across the Vale of Glamorgan and that a formal request is made as to what services, if any, they would look to take on in the future.
  • That the views of the Community Liaison Committee and Town and Community Council representatives be forwarded to Cabinet for their consideration.'

The Head of Performance and Development reported that feedback from the Committee had highlighted the importance of working with Town and Community Councils in delivering the Reshaping Services Programme.  The recommendation to undertake a review of services currently provided would be taken forward.  It was also proposed that this exercise would capture initial ideas on which services these bodies could provide and the way in which the Council could support this.  In order to maximise the value of the exercise it had been further proposed that a seminar be arranged for all Elected Members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Members of the Community Liaison Committee. The purpose of the seminar was to provide further information as to the way in which the relationship between the Council and Town and Community Councils could develop.  Organisations with specific and relevant experience of this process would be invited to present at this seminar and answer questions that would then inform the data gathering exercise. As an update Committee was informed that the seminar referred to had infact taken place at 4.00pm that afternoon prior to the Community Liaison Committee meeting, to which all Clerks of Town and Community Councils had also been invited.

 

Consultations had also taken place with the Council’s Scrutiny Committees, the Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee, Trade Unions, the Vale Local Service Board and to a meeting that had been held specifically for Clerks of Town and Community Councils.  The overall conclusion of the consultation and engagement activities undertaken was that there was widespread support for the Reshaping Services Strategy. The specific aspects the Head of Service stated would be addressed in the coming months and were detailed at paragraph 51 of the report which identified a delivery plan.  It was further noted that the Reshaping Services Strategy had been welcomed by the groups that had been consulted and demonstrated the importance of external communications to a successful delivery of the Strategy.  A high level communications plan was also included in the Strategy and described the activities and stakeholder groups that would be communicated with. 

 

The Leader also took the opportunity to refer to the successful seminar that had taken place that afternoon where representatives from One Voice Wales Lyn Cadwallader and Mr. Rob Andrew from Cornwall Council had been present and which had provided an opportunity to raise awareness of issues surrounding the reshaping services agenda.   Again, the Leader took the opportunity to thank all those who had attended, aware that there was considerable work to be undertaken but that communication would be maintained with all stakeholders. 

 

Mr. Rob Andrew from Cornwall Council who was also present at the Community Liaison Committee meeting, to advise on how Cornwall had taken the devolution agenda forward, stated that that it was important to accept that different services may require different delivery models.  There was also an overlap between Town and Community Councils and the Voluntary Sector and it was important to build capacity at local levels as well as the confidence of Town and Community Councils to have the knowledge and skills to undertake activities. 

 

Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman then opened the debate for questions as detailed below:

 

Question

Response

The challenge will be for middle management in taking on services with officers having to be mindful of the specifications that they would be requesting Town and Community Councils to undertake.

Mr Andrew advised that key to the Strategy was the importance of raising awareness for all whether they were Elected Members of the Vale, Elected Members of Town and Community Councils or officers of both.  Working together for the benefit of all was paramount to success.  The Head of Performance and Development advised that to assist the process he considered that there was a need to develop a framework similar to the framework that had been developed by Cornwall Council to assist all in the process.

 

The differing budgets between Town and Community Councils may have adverse effects on the Reshaping Services Programme.

Leader – Yes, we are conscious of the levels of finance within Town and Community Council budgets and the  differences that can be associated from Council to Council in providing various services.  Mr. Rob Andrew advised that in some areas Councils may also be given an asset but not the funding to go with it and vice versa.  Other models had allowed for Unitary Authorities to retain the asset and for Town and Community Councils to run the service.  Many Town and Community Councils may also need to consider increasing their precept to provide various services and he referred to an example in Newquay where local residents had been keen to continue provide CCTV because of the social issues that could affect that area.  No adverse comments had been received when this had been suggested. However,  he reiterated the stance that Lyn Cadwallader (Chief Executive of One Voice Wales ) had made earlier that afternoon in the briefing seminar being that all Town Community Councils should consult with their constituents as to what services they may be thinking of providing to ensure that there was a direct mandate from the Council to proceed. 

 

Mr. Andrew also took the opportunity to urge Town and Community Councils to consider addressing their precept now, for the budget year 2016, as it was important that budgetary concerns were raised, as soon as possible in the process, in order to maintain service delivery and to provide additional services if that was the wish of their Council.  

 

An Elected Member from the Vale commented that it would be important for Councils to consider Section 106 provisions and the community infrastructure levy to ensure sustainability.  The Member also asked whether Cornwall Council had any templates they could provide the Vale in order to assist with drawing up contracts.

No templates were currently available.

Should there be no Community Council established as was the position with regard to the community of Rhoose,  what contingency plans would be put in place for Councils in that position?

The Authority would need to be clear on what services it was keeping and TCC’s would need to be clear on what services they would wish to provide and those that they would not. Once a decision was that that would be the end of it.

What would be the position if for example  9 out of 10 Councils decided to undertake a particular service e.g. grass cutting and another Council did not. It was the Member’s view that that would not be equitable for other Councils and their constituents if the service was not provided.

Unfortunately, that was the situation. It  was important to note that 'business as usual’ could not continue and difficult decisions would have to be made.  However, there were alternatives that could be considered in particular the possibility of cluster communities where more than one Council join together to provide a service.  Mr. Rob Andrew also advised that it was important that if a decision was made the Council 'stuck' to that decision to ensure consistency of  approach.

 

In response to a concern regarding the control of various plants e.g. Ragwort, Japanese Knotweed, the question was put as to the Councils legal obligation in these circumstances.

The Council had a statutory duty to address the issue if it was on Council property and highways etc. 

A Vale Elected Member made the point that he was fully aware that Councils were different in size and that Town Councils may take on more services than Community Councils.   He also stated that he personally, would be happy to provide services for Rhoose Community Council as his Town Council was a neighbouring one but however there would have to be a charge for the service. He stated that in his view it was important for Rhoose to establish a Community Council in order to establish a precept and community representation. 

Comments from some representatives of the Community Councils referred to the   different sizes  of some Councils and the differing levels of budgets. The Elected Member however, advised that it was essential the Vale Council continued with the Reshaping Services agenda in view its budget difficulties. 

A representative advised that his Council  was made up of a number of retired Members who had not been elected but had been co-opted onto the Council.  He stated that that the community council did not want to take on services as they did  not have the capacity, the budget or the infrastructure to do so and he was pretty sure there would be a number of other Community Councils in the same position..

The Leader, in response, advised that he shared the concerns but that the Vale Council had no option but to consider other ways of addressing the budget situation.

The representative from Penarth stated that his Council would be building some flexibility for the Reshaping Services agenda into their budget.

 

 

 

 

Mr Andrew was asked for his experience with regard to community clusters.

In response Mr Andrew stated that there were lots of cluster communities in his area, on the coast and in particular he referred to five parishes having recently  joined together to develop a neighbourhood plan.  Clusters could also be formed without having to contact the Boundary Commission.  Cornwall Council was looking into the arrangements of a five parish cluster particularly in relation to the legal implications and whether one parish could be host Council.

There are increased planning powers in England which are not available in Wales. From the Town and Community Council perspective in the Vale we are consulted on a number of planning applications but we feel that on most occasions our recommendations are 'ignored’. 

Rob Andrew stated that he was also a Parish Councillor within the Cornwall Council area and that on occasions his Council had been frustrated with decisions of the Unitary Authority’s Planning Committee. However, the aim of the devolution  agenda was to work with all officers including Planning colleagues, to build trust and confidence.  In his view Cornwall was getting there but further work was needed. 

 

The Leader responded that in his view although,  not a member of the Planning Committee he could assure members that all consultation was considered. Although it was important to note consultation would be considered in line with legislative guidance, officers advise Members of the Planning Committee of the legislative requirements which may or may not be sympathetic to a Town and Community Council’s view. 

The Member from Llanmaes Community Council stated that from a small Council he would be keen to consider the clustering concept as this also ensured consistency in approach and as far as he was concerned, proper clustering arrangements consistently applied could work. 

 

The Member for Llandough Community Council also stated that in his view some Councils could consider taking on smaller services whereas others may not.  It was important to note that not one size fitted all and that it was likely to be the case that things may be done differently in neighbouring Community Councils. 

 

 

 

In conclusion, the Leader of the Council and the Head of Service thanked all present for their input into the Reshaping Services Programme and the comments made at the meeting. Following the debate it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted and further updates be brought to the Community Liaison Committee in due course, on the progress of the Reshaping Services Change Programme.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure the Committee is updated on a regular basis as to the progress on the programme.

 

 

618     ANNUAL REPORT - SECTION 106 LEGAL AGREEMENTS 2013 - 2014 (REF) -

 

Cabinet had been informed on 3rd November, 2014 of the progress on Section 106 Planning Obligation matters that had arisen in the financial year April 2013 to March 2014.  The report advised that Council had the power to enter into Legal Agreements with developers under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to seek contributions from developers to mitigate negative development impacts and facilitate development which might otherwise not occur.  The report highlighted that in the past 12 months between April 2013 and March 2014 a total of 22 planning permissions had been issued, that were subject to Section 106 Legal Agreements, which were outlined at Appendix A to the report.

 

The value of the financial contributions in the Legal Agreements totally £5,431,630.24 and six of the agreements related to major schemes for residential developments at Ferm Goch, Rhoose, St. Athan, Culverhouse Cross, Ystradowen and Llandough.  Areas of spend between April 2013 and March 2014 were also attached to the report at Appendix B. 

 

The Principal Planner in presenting the report stated that a number of the schemes had been delivered in the financial year by the Council with enhancements to walking and cycling, provision of public art, open space enhancements and childrens play areas.

 

Whilst considering the report a number of Town and Community Councillors raised the issue of consultation with Town and Community Councillors for Section 106 provision.  The Principal Planning Officer advised that current protocol did not extend to consulting directly with Town and Community Councils but that Ward Members from the Vale would be undertaking this role. 

 

A further question was raised with regard to the formula used to assess Section 106 obligations with the question being was consideration given as  to how much a developer sells the houses for.  The Planning Officer advised that the cost of the houses was not dependent on the obligation.  The Council would provide the developer with a list of planning obligation requirements based on its Planning Policies for the use of Section 106 monies as negotiations take place.  Members were advised that for example, if a local school had a number of places available for children then the Council could not ask for money to assist in the provision of school places.  However, if there was limited capacity then consideration could be given to negotiate with the developer financial assistance for provision..  Should a developer be unable to address all the items on the list because of viability constraints then discussions would ensue as to what could be realistically expected.  It was also important to note that negotiation and discussion can take some time and the officer cited the Barry Waterfront development as an example where considerable negotiations took place due to the viability constraints on the site and the vast planning obligation requirements. 

 

In referring to the Community Infrastructure Levy fee, the Principal Planner advised that this levy would be set in the first instance on the basis of what a development in the Vale can afford but it would not necessarily be specific to the site where development takes place.  However, the Council was not in a position at the moment to introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy as it needed to have a Local Development Plan in place in order to establish a CIL. 

 

A local Member referred to there being no bus services in his area and although the Green Links Service was a good service it did not provide as much support for his area as was required.  In response, the Planning Officer advised that in referring particularly to the area of Ferm Goch near Llangan, the Ward Member would be consulted on any proposals for sustainable transport and on the development. In particular it may be possible for some any section 106 monies to be used to support the Green Links bus to assist the community there.

 

A number of Members queried why Town and Community Councils were not specifically consulted with regard to section 106 monies with the officer advising that specific consultation would greatly add to the process and officer time with the consequence of significantly affecting timescales for schemes.  Currently Town and Community Councils are consulted on all planning applications and they have every opportunity at that stage to comment on their priorities for Section 106 funding.  Once the money is received only local Ward Members are consulted and Town and Community Councils should discuss their views with them.  If Town and Community Councillors had any issues they were advised to discuss them directly with their Elected Ward Member. A further suggestion was made that officers should also identify Section 106 schemes early for Members on the weekly planning lists but again this was referred to as an onerous and cumbersome process and in the main   Committee was informed that the current system generally worked well and that there was evidence that Community Councils regularly commented on Section 106 developments.  However, having fully discussed the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider the feasibility of including consultation with Town and Community Councils in the Section 106 process and report back to the Committee.

 

(2)       That the report, referred to in 1 above, also includes details of the differences between Section 106 and the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy.

 

(3)       T H A T the progress made on Section 106 matters between April 2013 and March 2014 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that Cabinet can consider the feasibility of the request.

 

(2)       To apprise Members of the differences between Section 106 and a CIL.

 

(3)       Members having been apprised of the position.

 

 

619     FIRE SERVICE STATISTICS FOR THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN FIRE SERVICE AREA - FOR INFORMATION ONLY -

 

The Committee received the Fire Service statistics for the Vale of Glamorgan Fire Service area for the period April 2014 to September 2014.

 

Following receipt of the statistical information, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED  - T H A T the statistics be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise the Committee on the latest Fire Service statistics for the Vale of Glamorgan service area.

 

 

620     EXPRESSION OF INTEREST TO WELSH GOVERNMENT FOR VOLUNTARY MERGER (REF) - 

 

Cabinet at its meeting on 17th November, 2014 had approved the preparation of an Expression of Interest (EOI) in respect of a voluntary merger with Bridgend Council and resolved that that EOI  be submitted to a future meeting of the Cabinet prior to submission to Welsh Government by 28th November 2014. The Cabinet had also referred the report to the Community Liaison Committee for its information.  At the Community Liaison meeting the Leader of the Council, ( with permission to speak) informed Members that an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet had been arranged for Friday 28th November 2014 in order for Cabinet to consider the Expression of Interest for submission to WG. Committee was further informed that should approval be granted for the submission, it would subsequently be referred to the Council  meeting scheduled for 17th December, 2014.  This being in accordance with the Welsh Government prospectus which allowed for an EOI to be approved by Cabinet for submission and considered by Full Council shortly thereafter. 

 

In presenting the report to the Community Liaison Committee the Head of Performance and Development provided Members with the background to the report by advising that at a Full Council meeting on 29th September, 2014 consideration had been given to the response to the Welsh Government’s White Paper Reforming Local Government which proposed mergers of Councils including that of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Council.  At that same meeting the Council had  also considered the Welsh Government’s associated document ‘Invitation to Principal Local Authorities in Wales and Submit Proposals for Voluntary Merger’ which invited Councils to submit, by 28th November, 2014, bids for voluntary mergers which would allow them to merge sooner than Welsh Government’s legislative timetable otherwise allowed for.  The resolutions  from that Council meeting being reported as follows : 

  • 'That Council notes the issues set out in this report for its consideration and   indicates its views.
  • That this Council confirms its previous resolution to resist a forced merger with Cardiff City and County Council and believes that the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough is a sustainable Council in its own right and urges Welsh Government (WG) to allow the Vale of Glamorgan Council to continue as a stand-alone Council.
  • That should this position not be agreed by WG or that indications from WG confirm that they will not give such an undertaking, delegated authority is given to the Managing Director in consultation with the Leader to enter into pre-emptive negotiations for a voluntary merger with other Councils that share the same values and cultures as we do here in the Vale of Glamorgan.
  • That WG be contacted to confirm what arrangements and financial support are available to this Council for proceeding with an early adopter approach.
  • That the Leader agrees to keep all other Group Leaders informed of the progress or otherwise of the above resolutions.
  • That a further report be presented to Cabinet and any subsequent Council meeting, including an extraordinary Council meeting if deemed necessary.    
  • That delegated powers are granted to the Managing Director, in consultation with the Leader, to respond to the Welsh Government White Paper on the Council's behalf.'

The Head of Service further informed Committee that in view of the developments to date, including discussions with a variety of partners on the options available to the Council, it was now considered that rather than pursuing a 'stand-alone' course of action the Council should aim for a voluntary early merger with Bridgend Council.  Of note also was the fact that for authorities merging voluntarily there would be no elections in May 2017 with sub-ordinate legislation providing for the term of office for  existing Councillors to be extended to May 2018.  In October 2017 the Shadow Authority and Shadow Council for those merging authorities would be established consisting of the full body of serving Councillors on the Constituent Councils, the functions being to prepare for the creation of the new authority as specified by a specific order.  For Councils not pursuing a voluntary merger the timetable differed and was detailed in paragraph 5 of the report.

 

In considering the best way the Head of Service referred to two separate but related issues that had needed to be discussed which were: 

  • Why should we apply for an early, voluntary merger rather than await the legislative process?
  • Why should the Council merge with Bridgend rather than as set out in the White Paper with Cardiff Council?

The Head of Service stated that as recognised by the Council’s Reshaping Services Change Programme a voluntary merger offered a unique opportunity to radically transform the Council’s approach to public service delivery to create an organisation that was able to understand and influence the needs of its communities and was able to adapt and innovate in order to deliver joined up solutions.  Welsh Government had also stated in their prospectus for voluntary mergers, which was attached as an Appendix to the report, that extensive Welsh Government support would be made available for Councils progressing voluntary mergers.  To date, recent discussions with Welsh Government had indicated that dedicated Welsh Government teams would work jointly with Councils whose bids were accepted. 

 

In determining whether the Council could continue as presently constituted rather than merging both the Leader and the Head of Service advised that it was becoming increasingly apparent that the dire future predictions of public expenditure had had a direct bearing.  From discussions on an earlier agenda item at the meeting namely the Reshaping Services Programme, Members were informed that all Council services were currently being subjected to assessment to determine what approaches could be taken in response to substantial budget cuts.  From this information an early conclusion had been reached that many services would be simply not viable as currently constituted if cuts of the scale currently envisaged were imposed.  Therefore, in a number of cases collaboration with another Council’s  service would provide the necessary resilience and quality of service. 

 

The Head of Service also advised that of importance was the fact that should the other Council mergers proceed but the Vale continue as currently constituted it would then be one of the smallest Councils in Wales which could reduce its influence on critically important matters such as taking forward the City Region Agenda. This this would mean that the interests of residents and businesses could lack effective representation.  Should an Expression of Interest for voluntary merger be submitted to WG their initial response would be known in January 2015 and should the  response be a positive one it would introduce a welcome certainty into planning for the future.  In contrast, if the Council decided to simply await future developments there was a danger that continuing in 'limbo' would jeopardise the Council’s ability to function effectively.

 

Since the report to Council on 29th September, 2014 there discussions had taken place with both Bridgend and Cardiff Councils on the issue with it being considered the best option for the way forward to be for a voluntary merger with Bridgend Council as this would provide the best outcome for both the Vale and Bridgend.

 

The Head of service subsequently highlighted some of the reasons for a Vale / Bridgend merger as outlined below

 

'Bridgend and the Vale Council areas are of a similar size. Bridgend has a population of over 139,000 and the Vale just under 127,000. The resultant new Council would have a population of circa 266,000, which is large enough to benefit from economies of scale and provide resilience, and compares favourably with the populations of the other proposed merged Councils.

 

The similarity in size between Bridgend and the Vale is more likely to lead to an equitable distribution of resources across the area of the new Council than would be the case should the merging councils be significantly different in size and consequently influence.  In addition, where the size of merging councils is similar, a new Council is more likely to adopt best practice from whichever of its predecessor Councils demonstrates it (or indeed use best practice from elsewhere). Where a single large Council dominates, there is a significant risk that the practice that is adopted is the one carried out by the majority from the dominant Council and this quite frequently will not be the most effective and efficient means of delivery.

 

A merged Bridgend/Vale Council, whilst sufficiently large to be sustainable, will not be so large it becomes too distant from the citizens it serves. It will not be necessary to institute elaborate sub-structures for service delivery to try and preserve some sense of place and make service delivery sensitive to the needs of the local population. The size will also mean the Council will be able to innovate and yet be agile enough to implement that change quickly.

 

There is also likely to be, in view of the similarities with Bridgend set out below, significant commonality in the nature of the challenges, opportunities and problems experienced and the nature of service delivery and key policies. This bodes well for driving through efficiencies in service delivery. It is also likely to assist in preserving the identity of the area as well as promoting regeneration activity, formulating and implementing planning policy, and delivering transport services.

 

The nature of the areas of Bridgend and the Vale is similar in that both have significant rural areas, small distinct towns and villages, coastal towns and administrative centres and share a heritage coast. In terms of population density the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend both have about 500 people per sq.km.

 

The Vale has 53 km of coastline, of which 19 km is Heritage Coast that connects with the Heritage Coast within Bridgend.  It has a very similar housing need to Bridgend, and the town centres of both the Vale and Bridgend face competition from new forms of retailing and the draw of the capital city of Cardiff.  Both Bridgend and the Vale Councils also generate significant commuter traffic by road and rail into the capital city and day trip traffic to areas such as Barry Island, Porthcawl and the coastal strip.

 

There are particularly strong links between the population in the western Vale with Bridgend, in terms of access to services including health, retailing and recreation.

 

A merged Bridgend/Vale Council would still be within the Cardiff 'travel to work' area and the merger could assist in transport/highway planning for the existing Bridgend and Vale areas. The Vale of Glamorgan railway line links Bridgend through the Vale to Cardiff. Bus Services similarly also link Bridgend and the Vale to Cardiff.

 

With the advent of the Cardiff Capital City region, the importance of transport, economic development and infrastructure is already being driven forward at a regional level, and the Vale merging with Bridgend is not, as a consequence seen as disadvantageous. Indeed, the commonality of issues between Bridgend and the Vale could be viewed as a strength and a key opportunity.  The new merged council would also need to work with Cardiff, and this resultant collaboration could be more beneficial than just a merger of Cardiff with the Vale.

 

With regard to education, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend are in the Central South Consortium, together with Cardiff, RCT and Merthyr. Consequently, there are strong links between the Councils in education.  Performance and prospects for improvement following the last full Estyn inspections of the Vale and Bridgend were judged by Estyn to be of the same level (“adequateâ€).

 

Bridgend and the Vale are in the same Police Basic Command Unit (BCU) and consequently a merger of the Vale and Bridgend councils would facilitate joint working with the police on community safety and related issues.  Discussions are already in place to examine the benefits of merging the Vale and Bridgend Community Safety teams.

 

With regard to integration programmes for Social Services and Health, merger with Bridgend would mean that the new local authority area would straddle 2 Health Boards, Cardiff and Vale UHB and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) UHB. It is acknowledged that this may pose some challenges but it is not foreseen that managing relationships with 2 Health Boards will be especially onerous. It should be noted that major hospital services are already planned on a regional scale through the South Wales Programme; that significant numbers of Western Vale residents depend on the provision of hospital and some other health services in Bridgend, which is covered by ABM UHB;  and that for community and primary health services (the most important relationship for adult social care), both Cardiff/Vale and ABM UHBs operate a locality structure within which the Vale and Bridgend have locality status. Consequently, a merger of Bridgend and the Vale should not pose insurmountable difficulties either for the new Council or the Health Boards. Indeed, it will offer opportunities to learn and share best practice on a wider scale than would be achieved from working within a single Health Board.

 

A significant opportunity would exist in that whilst Bridgend has transferred its housing stock, the Vale still owns its stock and operates a Housing Revenue Account. The new Council would thus be able to address its housing problems either directly with using its own stock or through a strong range of Housing Associations.

 

The management structures of Bridgend and the Vale Councils are close in size and have similar cultures.'

 

The Vale Council also already had established relationships and joint working with Bridgend which would assist in a merger.  Bridgend and the Vale shared a single internal audit service which had proved successful. The Vale’s Civil Parking Enforcement role was provided by officers working for Bridgend, and the Vale’s CCTV service was in the process of being transferred for delivery by Bridgend. The Vale and Bridgend, in addition to Cardiff, were also involved in a joint Regulatory Services merger.

 

The Leader of the Council stated that in relation to a merger he had originally been of the view that the Vale of Glamorgan should stand alone.  However, since having had discussions and having been at various meetings with WG Ministers, it had been confirmed that Local Government Re-organisation would be taking place whether Councils 'liked it or not’. As a result, he had therefore considered that a voluntary merger should be pursued based on the reasons outlined above.  The Council could  consider merging voluntarily with other neighbouring authorities i.e. Cardiff and RCT however, with Bridgend also being a  sister authority and for the reasons outlined above, those contained within the report and the fact that the Vale Council had already established a number of collaborative arrangements with Bridgend, a merger with Bridgend was considered the preferred option.  Similarly, Bridgend had advised that their Council would also prefer to merge with the Vale.  The Leader further informed the Committee that he had also been in discussions with the Cardiff and Vale UHB and the Police Commissioner who were happy for the Vale to pursue this course of action. 

 

At this point, the Leader advised that the Williams Report had been written on the basis of the current regional health footprint but that  having spoken to Health Authority colleagues there was a South Wales Programme which was currently looking at hospitals on a different basis. It was also important to note that a number of residents in the Western Vale actually attended the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.  The reason he stated that the health boundaries had been considered important by the Williams Commission and should be worked around was due to the fact that the Health service had undergone boundary changes themselves just before the report was commissioned and he had been informed that it had been considered inappropriate for Health boundaries to be changed again so soon after. 

 

In response to a concern that Bridgend was predominantly a Labour Administration and the Vale alternated on a regular basis between parties, it was also accepted that Cardiff and RCT were predominantly Labour and politics aside the reasons for merging with Bridgend were sound.  Giving the response to a question, a Member of the Committee as to the issue of elections not being held until 2018 and that this would allow Members of the current authorities’ terms of office to be for six years as opposed to four years and as whether this was democratic, the Leader advised that the Council’s had no involvement in this, it was purely the Welsh Government’s requirement.  A number of Members on the Committee actually also informed the Leader that they lived in the Western Vale and would attend Bridgend Hospital as opposed to Llandough and Cardiff.  Representatives from the Town and Community Councils advised that they were aware that Community Councils in the Western Vale also appeared to have a closer affinity with Bridgend.

 

Reference by Members was also made to the number of Elected Members for the residents of the Vale and that under the reorganisation proposals a new Council would be required to have a maximum of 75 Members.  In referring to this the Leader advised that with regard to the current arrangements, Cardiff currently had 75 Elected Members and the Vale had 47, whereas Bridgend had 54 which was more similar in structure to the Vale.  A Community Council Representative further reiterated the role of Town and Community Councils and the similarity in numbers with Bridgend as opposed to Cardiff where there were only a small number of Community Councils.  Reference was also made to the current Charter that had been agreed with the Vale Council and its Town and Community Councils and the need for this to be preserved.  Following a question as to whether Bridgend Council also had an agreed charter with its Town and Community Councils the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer agreed to make enquiries and report back to Members in due course. 

 

The majority of the representatives of the Town and Community Councils and Vale elected Members present at the meeting, expressed the view that having heard all the reasons for and against exploring a merger with Bridgend Council the case in favour  was more than evident.  The reshaping services agenda was also an important factor here and Bridgend had a similar makeup to the Vales with regard to Town and Community Council arrangements.  An Elected Member of the Vale Council also advised that having had dealings with Cardiff Council on a number of occasions themselves these had been somewhat negative and they would personally prefer to pursue a merger with the Bridgend Authority.

 

In response to a further question as to whether the Council knew how Welsh Assembly funding was to be shared for such a merger, the Leader advised that this detail had not yet been provided to Councils.

 

Following the debate and having fully considered the report and the evidence and views presented it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Cabinet be informed of the Community Liaison Committee’s support for a merger with Bridgend Council.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the contents of the report and the evidence, information and discussion at the meeting. 

 

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