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THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of an extraordinary meeting held on 30th April, 2012.

 

Present:  Councillor J. Clifford (Mayor); Councillors J.C. Bird, Ms. B.E. Brooks, Mrs. J.E. Charles, P. Church, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, Ms. V.L. Ellis, C.P.J. Elmore, A.M. Ernest, J.F. Fraser, A.D. Hampton, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, K. Hatton, H.J.W. James, T.H. Jarvie. G. John, F.T. Johnson, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, G.C. Kemp, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, Mrs. A.J. Moore, N. Moore, C.L. Osborne, Mrs. A.J. Preston, Mrs. M. Randall, Mrs. S.I. Sharpe, J.W. Thomas, R.P. Thomas, R.L. Traherne, Mrs. D.M. Turner, Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson, A.C. Williams, C.J. Williams, E.T. Williams, Miss. S.J.C. Williams and Ms. M. Wright.

 

 

1178   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. M.E. Alexander, Mrs. S.M. Bagstaff, R.J. Bertin, Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, S.C. Egan, E. Hacker, N.P. Hodges, S.T. Wiliam and M.R. Wilson.

 

 

1179   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

1180   EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 4 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Act, the relevant paragraphs of the Schedule being referred to in brackets after the minute heading.

 

 

1181  DYFFRYN HOUSE AND GARDENS - NATIONAL TRUST (EXEMPT INFORMATION - PARAGRAPHS 12, 13 AND 14) -

 

Cabinet on 15th February, 2012 considered and approved proposals for the way forward in respect of the transfer of the operation of Dyffryn House and Gardens to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (NT).  Matters considered by the Cabinet at the above meeting related to matters pertaining to the following:

 

·         Valuations and Section 123 Local Government Act 1972

·         Stake Aids

·         Pensions

·         VAT

·         Existing leases on the site

·         Grant liabilities.

 

The Cabinet also gave consideration to one letter of objection received to the proposals. 

 

Since the endorsement by the Cabinet of the proposals contained in the Cabinet report of 15th February, 2012 (Min. No. C1623 refers) discussions on the issues referred to above had been progressed by officers in consultation with the relevant Cabinet Member. 

 

In introducing the item, the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration apologised for the necessity for calling a further special meeting of the Council to deal with the matter and referred to the passage of the proposal from its first inception when the potential for partnership arrangements were first considered by the Cabinet in December 2010 and to further report to Cabinet in July 2011 and more recently in February, 2012.  In that time he alluded to the matter being subject of deliberations by the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) in July 2011 and the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) in February 2012 both following the matter being called-in by Councillors Wilson and Mrs. K.A. Kemp respectively.  He also made reference to the comprehensive answers provided by the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration and his officers to questions on the proposals raised at the above Scrutiny Committee meetings.  He also acknowledged that at the time of the matter being under consideration by the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) there had been no final agreement reached with NT on specific issues, in particular, pension matters and consequently it had not been possible to bring the matter before an earlier meeting of the Council. He considered that the issues had now been addressed and NT was anxious to progress the matter to completion.

 

His attention then turned to the report and made specific reference to the public consultation exercise and only one objection had been received the nature of which and the fact that the gardens would remain open to the public did not outweigh the proposals being submitted for approval.  As for matters relating to pension issues, he commented that agreement had been reached with NT on the matter.  The key principle in his mind was to ensure that staff at Dyffryn House and Gardens were not adversely disadvantaged and indicated that the agreement on this issue would allow the submission of state aid approval.  As for matters relating to the VAT, he indicated that this was a technical matter and had been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties with indemnity clauses agreed which would ensure both parties interests were protected. 

 

In turning to issues relating to Grant Liabilities he agreed with the sentiments expressed by Councillor N. Moore at the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) held in February 2012, regarding the necessity of a 25 year break clause.  However, it had not been possible to reach agreement with NT on the matter.  He also made reference to the financial and legal implications of the proposals as set out in the report.

 

To conclude, the Cabinet Member considered that the previous four Administrations of the Council could be proud of their actions in overseeing progress at Dyffryn House and Gardens.  He referred to the high standards of external restoration works and the commencement of opening the internal rooms of the house to the public.  Visitor numbers had risen to a consistent level of 50,000 each year.  Despite this, he considered that without continued investment the ongoing development of Dyffryn House and Gardens could not be taken forward.

 

The proposals were not about the current Administration outsourcing services indeed, he considered that given his portfolio responsibilities he had strived to be innovative when overseeing matters relating to the house and gardens which was evident with the introduction of visitor attractions programme.  From a personal perspective, he felt unease with a proposal that would transfer the House and Gardens just to save funds.  The proposals as submitted represented the best benefit for visitors, wider regional tourism, the economy of the Vale of Glamorgan, the NT and it was good news for the Vale of Glamorgan Council Tax Payer.  There would also be benefits of the existing NT portfolio linking Dyffryn House and Gardens with Tredegar House in Newport, coupled with the additional investment of £6.9 million.  He was aware that staff were content with the proposals which would provide greater opportunity to what the Council could provide in regard to training and development opportunities for managers and gardening staff alike. 

 

Referring to the agenda, Councillor N. Moore, Leader of the Labour Group indicated he was not against the principle of transferring Dyffryn House and Gardens per se’ but he was at a loss as to why the report was submitted in what he considered as the dying embers of the Council.  He considered there was still a great deal of work to be done to finalise arrangements and yet there were still too many unanswered questions particularly with regard to state aid approval and that Grant Liabilities which he considered had not been inadequately addressed and reiterated previous concerns raised in regard to the 25 year claw back and NT having a break clause at 20 years.  He indicated that he was not prepared to accept proposals as contained in the report under the current conditions.

 

In response, the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration reiterated earlier comments and believed that state aid was a formality.  In regard to Grant Liabilities, an appropriate legal agreement would ensure the Council's interests were protected.  He pointed out that staff were looking forward to the transfer and any further delay would create uncertainty and in his mind all the issues had been resolved and saw no reason to agree to delaying the matter to a later meeting of the Council.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T Council ratifies the arrangement with National Trust, subject to satisfactory state aid approval.

 

(2)       T H A T the Council enters into appropriate Legal Agreements with the National Trust, including a lease, the Agreements being conditional on (1) above.

 

(3)       T H AT the Council grant licences/leases to existing occupiers as set out in paragraphs 16 to 18 of this report on terms to be agreed by the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services, in consultation with the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration and Director of Finance, ICT and Property, subject to (1) above.

 

(4)       T H A T, subject to (1) above, the Council accept the surrender of the lease to Cymraeg Vending Limited in respect of the Tea Rooms at Dyffryn Gardens in addition to further agreeing a variation of the catering contract with Cymraeg Vending Limited to exclude Dyffryn Gardens and that in regard to those matters, the Director of Finance, ICT and Property and the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services in consultation with the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration be authorised to finalise the terms of the surrender and agree the variation of the contract accordingly.

 

(5)       T H A T the Director of Finance ICT and Property, Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services and the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration be given delegated authority to resolve any outstanding legal and financial issues including the execution of agreements and contracts to achieve the proposed transfer.

 

(6)       T H A T the pensions principles as set out in paragraphs 6 to 12 of this report be approved and the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing in consultation with the Director of Finance, ICT and Property agree the details of the pension clause in the transfer agreement and enter into the admission agreement.

 

(7)       T H A T, subject to (1) above, the Council enter into the appropriate agreements with the Heritage Lottery Fund to vary the terms and conditions of its previous and current Grants to include the National Trust which would enable the Trust to both benefit and assume responsibility for the liabilities under those grants and that, in this regard, the Council also transfer the balance of £600,000 allocated to match funding the Partial House Restoration Grant to the National Trust to enable the Trust to take forward the works required under the terms and conditions of that grant.

 

(8)       T H A T, subject to (1) above, the Council enter into the appropriate Agreement with Cadw to transfer or otherwise vary the grant awarded for the partial restoration of the House.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1&2)  In order to achieve a transfer.

 

(3)       In order to formalise the transfer to NT.

 

(4)       In order to facilitate long term plans.

 

(5)       In order to allow the arrangement to be concluded.

 

(6)       In order to provide adequate pension arrangements.

 

(7)       In order to transfer grant and achieve an appropriate arrangement.

 

(8)       In order to facilitate the partial restoration of the House

 

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