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 THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 25th June, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor Howard Hamilton (Mayor); Councillors Richard Bertin, Janice Birch, Jonathan Bird, Bronwen Brooks, Lis Burnett, Philip Clarke, Geoff Cox, Claire Curtis, Rob Curtis, Pamela Drake, John Drysdale, Kate Edmunds, Stuart Egan, Christopher Elmore, Christopher Franks, Keith Geary, Val Hartrey, Keith Hatton, Nic Hodges, Hunter Jarvie, Gwyn John, Dr. Ian Johnson, Maureen Kelly Owen, Peter King, Kevin Mahoney, Anne Moore, Neil Moore, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Audrey Preston, Rhona Probert, Gwyn Roberts, John Thomas, Rhodri Traherne, Steffan Wiliam, Margaret Wilkinson, Christopher Williams, Edward Williams and Mark Wilson.

 

 

125            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Rhiannon Birch, Eric Hacker, Jeff James, Fred Johnson, Anthony Powell, Ray Thomas and Clive Williams.

 

 

126            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

127            MINUTES -

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 7th May, 2014 and the Annual Meeting held on 14th May, 2014 were approved as a correct record.

 

 

128            ANNOUNCEMENTS -

 

The Mayor made the following announcements:

 

  • On 11 June 2014, he had the honour of greeting HRH Duchess of Gloucester to the Vale of Glamorgan when she officially opened the Barry Lifeguard Station. 
  • He and his wife, Carol had attended a special ceremony to commemorate Philippines Independence Day. 
  • On 16 June 2014, he had presented a basket of flowers to Mrs Olive Ball, who was celebrating her 100th birthday.   
  • He had sent congratulatory letters to the following residents of the Vale of Glamorgan on receiving honours in the recent Queen’s Honours List : 

            Councillor Jeffrey James MBE

            Miss C A Davies MBE: 

            Mr E B Cooper MBE

            Mrs Sandra Peacock MBE: 

            Mr Stuart Peacock MBE

            Mrs C M M Parker MBE: 

            Professor Sir M J Owen 

  • Finally, he referred to a magnificent ceremonial occasion on Monday 23rd June 2014 when the Council had commemorated the 40th Anniversary of the Freedom of the County being granted to RAF St Athan, as well as marking Armed Forces Week by raising the Armed Forces Flag. 

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services informed Members that Mrs. Janet Haywood, Head Teacher of Cadoxton Primary School, had been awarded the OBE for services to education.  He had written on behalf of the Council to congratulate Mrs Haywood and the Mayor confirmed he would do likewise.

 

 

129            PETITIONS -

 

The following petitions were received and passed to the relevant Director:

 

(i)         Petition submitted by local residents requesting a new relief road between Barry Road and Gladstone Road to reduce traffic using Hannah Street, Barry (submitted by Councillor Richard Bertin).

 

(ii)        Petition requesting retention of field off Dyfan Road, Barry (submitted by Councillor Richard Bertin).

 

 

130            WICK COMMUNITY COUNCIL: APPOINTMENT OF TEMPORARY MEMBER (MO) -

 

Wick Community Council ordinarily consisted of 7 members. At the Annual Meeting in May 2014, five members resigned. The Community Council required 3 members to be in attendance at any of its Council meetings in order to be quorate.

 

Arrangements were ongoing to issue the casual vacancy notices in order to appoint new community councillors, either in the first instance by means of a by-election or otherwise by co-option.  Should it be necessary to co-opt members the Community Council would be unable to act unless it was quorate.

 

Section 91(1) of the 1972 Act provided that:

 

"where there are so many vacancies in the office of ...... community councillor that the ...... community council  are unable to act the ...... Welsh principal council may by order appoint persons to fill all or any of the vacancies until other councillors are elected and take up office."

 

It was proposed that Councillor Audrey Preston (as the local ward member) be temporarily appointed to the Community Council from a date to be specified by the Managing Director (if deemed necessary) until such time as a third community councillor was elected or co-opted and took up office. 

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Council by Order appoints Councillor Audrey Preston to fill a vacancy on Wick Community Council from such date as deemed appropriate by the Managing Director until a third Community Councillor is elected or co-opted and takes up office.

 

(2)       T H A T the Managing Director be granted delegated authority to sign and issue the Order referred to in Resolution (1) above.

 

(3)       T H A T two copies of the Order be sent to the First Minister.

 

 

131            PROTOCOL - STANDARD OF CONDUCT EXPECTED BY MEMBERS (MO) -

 

The Standards Committee agreed at its meeting on 11 April 2014 the 'Protocol - Standard of Conduct Expected by Members'.  At the request of the Standards Committee, Members of the Council's New Welsh Model Constitution Working Party had been consulted regarding the Protocol; no amendments had been suggested.

 

The purpose of the Protocol was to establish a benchmark of behaviour which was acceptable between Members.  It was not intended to replace the Members' Code of Conduct but to sit alongside it and fill the gap between behaviour which possibly in itself was not serious, but created unpleasantness between Council Members, and behaviour that was approaching the threshold of being serious enough for the Ombudsman to hold an investigation.

 

Low level complaints of breach of the Protocol might be dealt with via the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure (which was reported separately on the agenda).

 

Gwynedd Council and Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council adopted a similar Protocol in 2010 and 2011 respectively as part of introducing their local dispute resolution procedure for dealing with complaints concerning Members.  As a result of those Councils' experiences, consideration was being given by the remaining 20 Local Authorities in Wales to incorporate the Protocol into their respective constitutions.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the 'Protocol - Standard of Conduct Expected by Members’, attached at Appendix A to the report to Council, be agreed and incorporated into the Council’s Constitution as part of the ongoing work in reviewing the new Welsh Model Constitution. 

 

 

132            LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE (REF) -

 

The Standards Committee on 11th April, 2014 agreed an informal local dispute resolution procedure to address low level complaints of breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct ('the Code') and Protocol – Standard of Conduct Expected by Members, in response to Welsh Government and the former Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ concerns.

 

In the most recent revision of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of Local Authorities, there was an expectation that local authorities throughout Wales would implement a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to deal with low level complaints which were made by a Member against a fellow Member. 

 

The Ombudsman had indicated that the following would fall within this category:

 

(i)        Failure to show respect and consideration for others contrary to paragraph 4(b) of the Code.

(ii)       Duty not to make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other Members under paragraph 6(1)(d) of the Code.

 

Complaints of this type were expressly mentioned by the Ombudsman although other breaches of the Code might also be regarded as low level complaints.

 

The Ombudsman set out the advantages of dealing with such low level complaints as follows:

 

(i)        Speeds up the complaints process permitting a local and quick resolution of lower order issues.

(ii)       Avoids unnecessary escalation of the situation which might impact on personal relationships within the Authority and damage the Authority’s reputation.

(iii)      Avoids unnecessary formal complaints and the involvement of the Ombudsman whose resources could be devoted to the investigation of more serious or repeated complaints.

 

The Standards Committee considered that a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure, which operated with the full support and commitment of all political groups was key to securing a swift resolution of what were deemed low level complaints. 

 

The Local Dispute Resolution Procedure, in summary, incorporated a three stage process as follows: 

  • Stage 1 – determination by Monitoring Officer or Deputy Monitoring Officer of whether the Procedure was applicable.
  • Stage 2 – conciliation meeting held to attempt to resolve the matter.
  • Stage 3 – hearing before an independent member of the Standards Committee, advised by the Monitoring Officer or Deputy Monitoring Officer. 

The Standards Committee resolved -

 

(1)       T H A T the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Vale of Glamorgan Council as attached at Appendix A to the report be agreed.

 

(2)       T H A T the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Group Leaders be consulted regarding the contents of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

 

(3)       T H A T the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chair of the Standards Committee, be given delegated authority to consider the comments from the Group Leaders and amend the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure if deemed appropriate.

 

(4)       T H A T, subject to any amendments in light of Resolution (3) above, the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure be referred to Council with a recommendation that it be incorporated into the Council’s Constitution.

 

(5)       T H A T a progress report be submitted to the next meeting of the Standards Committee.

 

In terms of Resolutions (3) and (4) above, no requests/suggestions for amendments to the procedure had been received from Group Leaders.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure be approved and incorporated into the Council’s Constitution.

 

 

133            EXIT FROM HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT SUBSIDY SYSTEM (REF) -

 

Cabinet on 16th June, 2014 was updated on the proposed arrangements for exiting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system.

 

The Welsh Government had been in discussions with HM Treasury since 2010 with a view to agreeing a financial settlement that would enable the eleven stock-retaining Councils to exit from the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy (HRAS) system.

 

The principle for Local Authorities buying themselves out of the system were that “every stock-retaining authority should be better off than the current positionâ€. This included not only the financial benefits from exiting HRAS but also the benefits of becoming self-financing.

 

Welsh Government announced in June 2013 that an agreement had been reached with HM Treasury, which together with the introduction of new self-financing arrangements was expected to generate revenue savings for the eleven Councils each year.  This would allow Councils to increase their investment in their existing stock and, where possible, support the delivery of additional housing supply.

 

A consultation paper on the Self-Financing of Council Housing in Wales was distributed to the 11 stock-retaining local authorities prior to a meeting that was held on 16th May 2014.  Officer and Member representatives were asked to consider a number of questions posed by Welsh Government relating to the exit from the HRAS.  In attendance for the Vale of Glamorgan Council were the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Services and Community Safety, the Head of Housing and Building Services and the Housing Accountant

 

Each stock-retaining local authority had now been asked by Welsh Government to formally respond by 19th July, 2014 to 6 specific questions, confirming if the Council accepted the WLGA Coordinating Committee's recommendations. 

 

The Council's proposed responses (as submitted to, and agreed by Cabinet), were as set out in paragraph 12(a) to (f) of the report as follows.

 

(a)       Do you agree with the proposal to distribute the settlement value based on negative subsidy amounts?  (Option 1 - attached as appendix 1)

 

This is acceptable.

 

(b)       Do you agree with the proposal to distribute the borrowing cap based upon option 3 (see appendix 2) to allow for new build commitments whilst also providing potential headroom for new build to every local authority?

 

The preferred option for the Vale of Glamorgan Council was option 2 as this gave additional borrowing capacity in terms of new build.  However, all 11 local authorities were compromising in order that the overall borrowing cap was not exceeded, tight timescales were met and that new build requests were in some part acceded to, therefore, option 3 was acceptable to the Vale of Glamorgan Council in terms of this.

 

(c)        Do you agree that the Welsh Government should retain a small proportion of the borrowing headroom as a contingency? (Proposed at £5M)

 

This was rejected as the borrowing cap was a local authority borrowing cap and should be used as such.

 

(d)       What are your views on how Welsh Government allocate any unallocated borrowing headroom now or in the future?

 

Unallocated borrowing headroom should be distributed between the local authorities using the formula explicit within Option 2 (Appendix 2) which is based on need and affordability.

 

(e)       Do you agree that the borrowing cap should be reviewed every three years with the 1st review in 2018/19?

 

It should be recognised that major capital projects were complex in terms of delivery. Business plans were long term planning documents.  The rational in reviewing borrowing cap usage in such a short period of time may lead to uncertainty in relation to long term strategic planning.

 

(f)        What action should the Welsh Government take on a Council who has not delivered on their ability to utilise their borrowing cap?

 

It was not felt that employing sanctions in terms of not using the allocated cap would be of any benefit in this process.  Experience tells us from delivering Social Housing Grant schemes that a myriad of things can impact on an organisation’s ability to always deliver.  Flexibility in the borrowing cap allocation should only be sought between Councils through trading arrangements.

 

The Welsh Government considered that Borrowing Cap Option 3 was the preferred option. Option 3 in terms of the Vale of Glamorgan's Housing Business Plan would give the Authority headroom to consider new build council housing (see Appendix 2 attached to the report). Based on existing financial assumptions the additional borrowing had been modelled and was affordable.

 

The final decision on the borrowing cap distribution would be subject to agreement by the Minister for Housing and Regeneration. Option 3 would be  supported by the following process:

 

Each Council would be allocated an 'indicative allocation' of the borrowing headroom as set out in option 3.  Each Council would need to advise the Welsh Government by end of October 2014 on whether they would take up their 'indicative allocation' for new build by March 2018.

 

If a Council wished to take up their 'indicative allocation', the Council would need to submit proposals to the Welsh Government by end of October 2014 that set out how and when they could utilise this for new build and whether this, together with their allocation for WHQS and % share for new build, was "affordable" within the business plan.

 

At this time the Council had no information on whether the additional borrowing headroom could be used for regeneration projects on council estates.

 

The Cabinet having considered the report, including the available options open to the Council,

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the attached appendices be endorsed and Cabinet’s views on the process proposed and the responses to the questions posed by Welsh Government contained within paragraph 12 (a) to (f) be referred to Full Council.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Housing and Building Services submit regular reports to Cabinet and Council as necessary on the progress in exiting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system.

 

(3)       T H A T the urgent decision procedure be used if necessary as set out in article 13.09 of the Council's Constitution in view of the need to submit a response to Welsh Government by 19 July, 2014.

 

(4)       T H A T the report be submitted as an urgent reference to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on 18 June, 2014.  The report and any comments from Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) then be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) on 24 June, 2014.  The report and any further comments from Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) then be submitted to Full Council on 25 June, 2014.

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) considered the matter, including the above Cabinet resolutions, at its meeting held on 18th June, 2014. 

 

The Scrutiny Committee

 

'RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Council do not lose sight of its own existing stock, including the upgrades that are overdue and that the development of new-builds should not distract from that.'

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) received a briefing on the issue prior to its meeting convening on 24th June, 2014.  Having considered the issues contained in the original Cabinet report dated 16th June, 2014, including its subsequent resolutions and the recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) as referred to above, the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources)

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T both the resolutions taken by the Cabinet and the recommendations of Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be endorsed.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report and attached appendices submitted to Cabinet on 16th June, 2014, together with the responses to the questions posed by Welsh Government as contained within paragraph 12(a) - (f) be approved.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Housing and Building Services submit regular reports to Cabinet and Council as necessary on the progress in exiting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy System.

 

 

134            QUESTIONS PURSUANT TO COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE 8.2 -

 

Due notice had been given of the following questions:

 

(i)         Question from Councillor Richard Bertin

 

Will the Cabinet Member please tell me if the First Group have again submitted a bid to run the T9 Airport Bus?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Tenders for the Welsh Government’s T9 Bus Service are due to be received by 7th July 2014, with a revised service being operational from 17th August 2014.  Therefore, currently I am unable to advise who will be running the Welsh Government’s Airport Bus Service from 17th August 2014 and whether First Group have submitted a bid.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Bertin asked whether this could be used as an opportunity to get a better service, and whether the Council was putting pressure on the Welsh Government accordingly. 

 

The Cabinet Member pointed out that the Council was simply the tendering authority on behalf of Welsh Government.  She and the Leader had been in discussion with the Minister and there had also been a publically available report on the review of the service.  That had been taken into account by the Welsh Government when they produced their tender document, but the Council was purely administering the tender, which was completely contracted and funded by Welsh Government.

 

 

(ii)        Question from Councillor Richard Bertin

 

Can the Cabinet Member please remind us why we are not considering building new homes at Llandow to meet our LDP quota?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

I assume that by “building new homes at Llandow†Councillor Bertin is referring to the proposal for building a new settlement at Llandow Trading and Industrial Estates.  Such a settlement has been promoted by a number of house builders and would essentially comprise approximately 2,500 new houses, together with associated open space and facilities.

 

The proposal for this new settlement has been considered by this Council on a number of occasions.  For various sound planning reasons it has been decided not to progress with the Llandow new settlement.  I would refer Councillor Bertin to the latest Council agreed position on this and the Council’s Local Development Plan Strategy.

 

The Strategy, which underpins the policies and land use allocations in the Deposit  Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan 2013, presumes against the building of new settlements (a position that is totally consistent and in line with current Welsh Government Policy.  Rather, our strategy concentrates development in and around sustainable settlements and areas of growth which already contain services and facilities.  The LDP’s Strategy also seeks to spread out the benefits that such development can deliver to the wider Vale.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Bertin asked whether the matter had anything to do with the fact that the Council did not go for 'Stage 1’ and to the Council not building on land identified in the Local Development Plan.

 

The Cabinet Member considered that the question was not clear, but informed Councillor Bertin that if he sent it to her in writing she would respond.

 

 

(iii)       Question from Councillor Chris Williams

 

I would like to suggest that the Leader and Cabinet consider the introduction of pre-Scrutiny meetings.  When I attended the Gwent Scrutiny Challenge event on 6th June I had the opportunity to speak with contacts in Monmouthshire and Caerphilly Councils where it has been introduced recently and has led to more focused scrutiny and has been largely welcomed by the great majority of Members and Officers.  The meetings are regarded as best practice by the Wales Audit Office and I suggest that perhaps we could trial the idea at one Committee and/or ask for a report from Officers to look into the issue and report back to Corporate Resources as the lead Scrutiny Committee.

 

Reply from the Leader

 

As Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, it is within your behest to look at how you deal with the scrutiny process.  In 2012, the Auditor General committed to the Wales Audit Office undertaking an All-Wales Scrutiny Improvement Study.  As part of the Council’s participation in that Study, a group of Officers and Members undertook a self-evaluation of the Council’s existing scrutiny arrangements, took part in peer review exercises and attended workshops.  As part of the peer review exercise, two meetings of our Scrutiny Committees were observed by a group from Neath and Port Talbot Council and the Council’s own Peer Review Group observed Scrutiny Committee proceedings at Swansea Council.

 

The WAO Outcome Report from the above study was only issued on 29th May of this year.  Officers are currently looking at the report and the specific recommendations contained therein with a view to reporting to the Democratic Services Committee and the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group.

 

The report does allude to the practice in some authorities of Scrutiny Committees meeting in advance of formal meetings and this specific aspect can be incorporated within the consideration of the report as a whole, but on reading the extract of the report there are different types of meetings and it is not contained within the 9 recommendations in the report.  However, I am sure that this is something that the Democratic Services Committee and the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group can discuss.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Williams asked whether the Leader believed that, if the Council operated 'pre-meeting scrutiny’, it would then be better able to deal with urgent items such as submitted to the previous week’s Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee. 

 

The Leader referred to the Wales Audit Office report as containing reference to various approaches within Council’s in terms of 'pre-scrutiny’ meetings.  The report also referred to the need for clarity of purpose if such a process was to be utilised.

There were some concerns that the use of pre-meetings could undermine the formal committee meeting, leading to staged questions with little spontaneity or follow up questions.  The WAO’s view was that scrutiny committees could make more effective use of pre-meetings but there had to be a clear and agreed purpose and an agreed format used for preparing the formal committee without undermining it. 

 

He pointed out that the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group would have the opportunity to consider the WAO report.

 

 

(iv)       Question from Councillor Rhodri Traherne

 

I recently asked the Leader to inform Members as to whether the Administration had any plans to outsource the delivery of any services to the Private Sector?  Members may recall that he said, and I quote from the minutes, that 'The Council’s services have always been delivered via a mixed economy arrangement, utilising the private, and voluntary, sectors and other partners, where necessary, to provide best value.  There are no plans to change this service delivery model, and I am not aware of any new outsourcing being considered'.  In these difficult times I am sure that the Leader would agree that it is incumbent upon the Administration to examine every area of provision in order to analyse whether there may be more efficient and cost effective ways of delivering services.  It is a fact that the Private Sector can, in certain circumstances, offer 'better value for money’ than the Public Sector.  Can I therefore ask the Leader to set in train some work to examine whether there are any 'in house’ services that may be better provided by the Private Sector? 

 

Reply from the Leader

 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that central government’s continued austerity drive is set to place unprecedented financial pressures on local government in Wales.  Recent indications are that Welsh Government’s Council settlements for the next few years will be very severe.  All Councils will therefore be faced with the prospect of cutting services to an unacceptable degree – particularly since protecting Education and Social Services from the worst of the cuts could mean other Council services virtually disappearing.  The alternative is to start looking at other ways of delivering services throughout the Council.

 

This does not automatically mean outsourcing to the private sector.  My answer to Councillor Traherne’ s previous question said that the Council has a 'mixed economy arrangement' for delivering services, including, I may add, when his Party was in control of the council.  This has stood us in good stead and will continue as a principle to follow, but the scale of the challenges we face means that we need to develop a more strategic approach to the delivery models we choose.  Other Councils are adopting an approach called 'strategic commissioning', whereby a range of delivery options are examined.  This could mean outsourcing for those services where this is appropriate, but it could also include options such as mutualisation, a co-operative approach and the involvement of communities in the planning and delivery of services and, indeed, as we do with the voluntary sector.  These models focus on a reduction of demand in addition to the resources required to fulfil that demand.  Partnerships with other public sector organisations, including other Councils, will also need to feature as part of the approach and we are, indeed, looking at that.

 

Over the last months I have been having discussions with the Managing Director (as part of the normal day to day business), including budgets and the budget strategy that we need to take in order to continue to meet the statutory and priority services that we deliver.  As a result of these discussions we will be considering all options available to us, including exploring how such a commissioning strategy could work in practice. 

 

The outcome of the work and the revised Medium Term Financial Plan will be reported to Members at the earliest opportunity.         

 

 

(v)        Question from Councillor Steffan Wiliam

 

What measures will be taken during the summer months to enforce the existing by-law regarding Jet Skis?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development

 

Management of the bye-law in force at Jacksons Bay, Whitmore Bay and the Knap from May to September for the safe operation of seaside pleasure boats, which includes jet skis, is the responsibility of the Council’s Compliance / Enforcement Team.  Working in conjunction with the RNLI, who provide lifeguarding services for the Vale’s beaches, officers monitor the use of jet skis along our bathing waters to try to ensure that such activities do not cause a health and safety risk to bathers or a noise nuisance.

 

The primary method of enforcement is to record the index numbers of jet skis witnessed to be operated irresponsibly from the shore and to withdraw their slipway licences if this is found to be the case.  The registration rules for slipways controlled by the Vale require that all registered water craft display their registration number and that they are operated in a responsible and safe manner at a distance from the shore of at least 200m.  A summary conviction could also be progressed for breaching the bye-law.  Depending on the frequency or severity of a problem in any of the bays subject to the bye-law, there is capacity within our arrangements with the RNLI to arrange patrols of the bays using water craft.  This was a method used in 2013 and remains an option for this season.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Wiliam, referring to recording registration of jet skis as being desirable, but  extremely difficult and, for example, difficulties in identifying which slipway jet skis had been launched from, asked whether the Cabinet Member would ensure the provision of a fully motorised inflatable boat as a deterrent and safety measure, as had existed in 2013.

 

The Cabinet Member confirmed that the Council would do everything within its powers (notwithstanding the need to consider any impact on budgets) to ensure a safe environment.  He was confident that the Council could manage any problems that arose.

 

 

(vi)       Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Will you provide an update regarding the proposed electrification of the local railway lines?  

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Officers are continuing to be involved in detailed infrastructure discussions with Network Rail to progress the Valley Lines electrification programme, which is currently due to be completed in 2018.  Its delivery and the timescale for its completion is subject to Network Rail receiving confirmation that adequate funding is available from the Welsh Government to deliver the scheme.

 

Network Rail is due to communicate their proposals to both the Council and those with an interest in the scheme in the near future.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks referred to the necessary investment in the rail network as being vital for the economic future of the Vale and asked whether the Cabinet Member would ensure the issue was given a top priority and a further report would be submitted to Council regarding this work.

 

The Cabinet Member referred to having welcomed the City Region Board to Barry earlier in the day.  Connectivity with the four stations in Barry alone was a definite positive for the Vale and something which the Council would seek to build upon, both in terms of electrification and the proposed metro system.  She would keep Council fully informed of discussions, albeit she reminded Members that the main responsibility for delivering electrification lay with Welsh Government.

 

(vii)      Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

The Welsh Government announced a considerable time ago a £6 million Nature Fund to tackle the continued decline in biodiversity.  The State of Nature report underlines the threat to our environment.  As the Vale is not included in the seven Nature Action Zones declared by Government how will you respond to the challenges highlighted in the State of Nature report.

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

As Councillor Franks well highlights, the 'State of Nature' report is one of the most important UK wide biodiversity reports ever written. It was composed from evidence and research collated from over 20 wildlife organisations.

 

That was why last year I held a 'State of Nature' conference at which the Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Welsh Government contributed. The event was well-attended by Vale of Glamorgan Councillors, Community Councillors, Council Officers and local environmental organisations and individuals and we were the only Council in Wales to hold such an open discussion.

 

The issues outlined in the State of Nature report require efforts, not only by Councils, but many other stakeholders, including landowners, businesses, farmers and environmental groups.  Even within the Vale of Glamorgan Council it will require cross-department working via education, planning, housing, parks and highways.

 

We will also require innovative approaches to finding resources beyond one single fund.  The Nature Fund does not exclude the Vale entirely, but it prioritises the seven Nature Action Zones.  Innovative projects in the Vale which demonstrate they can deliver the key outcomes will also be considered.  Often the Council’s contribution does not need new resources; doing things differently such as allowing wildflowers to grow on highway verges and on roundabouts can make a difference, whilst at the same time reducing the costs of frequent grass cutting.

 

Supplemental

 

Noting that the limited grant had been allocated to the Council under the Local Authority Partnership Scheme, Councillor Franks asked how, over and above that, the Council could dramatically increase efforts to address the damaging loss to wildlife within the Vale of Glamorgan and across Wales.

 

The Cabinet Member considered it to be the duty of all Members to push the issue within their communities, to ensure things were addressed in the best way possible and attempt to find extra resources through education, planning and across departments.  He referred to the State of Nature report as indicating that 60% of wildlife had been lost within the last forty years.

 

 

(viii)     Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Will you indicate what meetings have been held concerning co-education in Barry and make a statement on this matter?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

 

Following the Cabinet decision, at our meeting on 16th December, to begin a programme of work to develop detailed proposals to introduce co-education secondary schooling in Barry, a Programme Board, which I chair, has been established to oversee this work.  The Programme Board, which includes the Chairs of Governors and Head Teachers of both Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren Schools, the Chair of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, as well as officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate, has met on 6 occasions to date, including a meeting the day before Council and has a further meeting scheduled for this month.  The Programme Board has made good progress in its work to date to develop options for the future and I hope to be able to present a report to Cabinet in the autumn.  This report will recommend the next steps that we propose to take to establish co-educational provision in the town.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks asked whether the Cabinet Member would indicate what funds were available to progress any co-education project and where such finance was identified in the Medium Term Financial Plan.

 

The Cabinet Member indicated that the Medium Term Financial Plan was due to come out next month via the Cabinet process, following which he would update Members on the wider work being undertaken and the financial implications of that work.  The Programme Board had been asked to respect confidentiality of the exercise and the need to avoid rumours being spread regarding the issue.  Nevertheless, he realised the importance of keeping Members informed and hoped to bring a further report forward in the Autumn.

 

(ix)       Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Following the concerns expressed regarding the proposals to cut the library budget by £500,000 will you indicate what is the reaction of Cabinet Members to the public protests and the findings of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning)?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

Following the meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning), at which the draft Library Strategy was considered, a further report is being prepared for Cabinet consideration.  You will be aware that the development of the draft strategy was informed by a survey that collected the views of local people about the future of the library service.  The forthcoming Cabinet report will include the views expressed more recently, together with the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning)’s recommendations.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks asked how the Cabinet would deal with the matter if there were inadequate numbers of volunteers to staff the four libraries in question. 

 

The Cabinet Member indicated that that would be addressed should the position arise.  However, he pointed out that during the initial consultation with members of the public there was a significant number of people who indicated a willingness to assist.

 

 

(x)        Question from Councillor Richard Bertin

 

Does the Cabinet Member for Lifelong Learning realise that by restricting time off during school term times, this will mean many families will not be able to afford a holiday?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

 

As Councillor Bertin will be aware, regular school attendance is vital to ensure that children and young people make the best possible progress: even relatively small dips in attendance can have an adverse impact on their attainment.  The Council and schools are working closely with parents to promote the benefits of good attendance.  We are currently considering changes to the school attendance policy which, if agreed, in due course, by Cabinet and by individual school governing bodies, would seek to further increase school attendance.  I do understand the importance of family holidays, whether in Wales or further afield, and am frustrated by the pricing arrangement of some holiday companies.  It is not, however, within my powers to alter that situation but it is important for local children and the future of the Welsh economy that we prioritise good school attendance.

 

The policy does not authorise time off during term time.  This does not stop parental choice to take holidays when children are meant to be in school but, if approved by Cabinet, the policy makes it clear that any future holidays will not be recorded as authorised absence.  They will be recorded as unauthorised but it does not stop the family if they wish to take leave, so to speak, because at the moment there is provision for 10 days.  I can only assume that Councillor Bertin’s confusion regarding this is for one of two reasons.  Either he has not read the report or he wishes to make political mischief out of a report regarding a simple change of policy in this Council and, indeed, make misleading statements on social media.  Indeed, I have had parents querying those misleading statements because they would rather get some clarity about the position and know what the actual report says. 

 

I must stress that at the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee on Monday, following a vote at the request of the Chairman, there was unanimous support from all Members present, including your Group Leader, Councillor Penrose who in fact asked me if I could go further with the report and not just change policy but instruct schools to undertake this work (a power that does not rest with myself or, indeed, the Director).  It was also supported by the voting observers on the Scrutiny Committee who include parents and governors.  I also must reiterate that any decision of a policy change can only be guidance to schools.  It is for the Governing Bodies to adopt the change and, finally, I must make the point that one of the biggest advocates of this policy change is the Head Teacher of Jenner Park Primary School and that this initial proposal actually came from Head Teachers.  They have requested this change so I am restricting nothing for anybody.  It is a simple policy change that has come from cross-party support and support of governors and Headteachers.  I am only disappointed regarding the 'mischief-making’ for schools on the part of certain Members.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Bertin indicated that he had read the report and was not confused and asked whether parents had been consulted regarding the proposal and, if not, whether they could be.

 

The Cabinet Member indicated that Councillor Bertin’s suggestion that he was restricting holidays for term time was factually incorrect.  Parents had not been consulted but he pointed out that, for example, there were parents who were members of the Scrutiny Committee who had overwhelmingly spoken in favour of the proposal (Members from various political parties on the Council).  He did not consider it appropriate to undertake a wide consultation exercise as it was a matter for individual Governing Bodies to determine whether to introduce the arrangement and, indeed, to consult with parents regarding the matter.  He pointed out that the changes would lead to 15 of the 22 local authorities within Wales now adopting such a policy, with more authorities likely to come to the same position by the end of the calendar year.  He referred to the loss of achievement of the children who did not attend school consistently, and to the negative impact not only on the child itself but on the rest of the class where teachers had to spend time 'catching up’ in respect of one child.

 

 

(xi)     Question from Councillor Kevin Mahoney

 

I understand from the Vale of Glamorgan wages department that a near 1% wage rise to Councillors’ wages / allowances was implemented in May 2014.

 

Given the austerity scenario caused by the near bankrupting of this country by the previous Labour Government, whose huge annual deficit is still largely continuing under the present Coalition, causing the massive cuts in budget allowances to Local Authorities countrywide that we are experiencing, does Neil Moore, who is always quick to remind us of his strong socialist principles, feel that it is justified that Vale Councillors be given a rise, however large or small, at a time when public and private sector workers have, and still are, enduring enforced restraints or actual cuts to their  wage packets in order to balance books?

 

In view of the fact that all elected Councillors throughout Wales, including of course here in the Vale of Glamorgan, knew full well the terms and wage amounts applicable to their posts when elected, is Neil able tell me how many of the Vale Cabinet Members, including himself, will be refusing to accept the wage rise in order to show empathy with Vale of Glamorgan Council employees and Vale residents in general?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

As Councillor Mahoney will be aware, the rates for Members’ allowances are set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales and this Council agreed to implement those changes accordingly.  I should add that this has happened when the allowances prescribed by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales went down too.  I should also add that I have ensured that the number of special responsibility payments have been minimised by me and I have not taken up the maximum number of allowances that were available to be used.

 

I also think that it should be emphasised that the Panel has not increased the overall amount of payments in its framework since it established the current levels in its 2011 Annual Report.  Given the very modest relaxation in the constraints on public sector pay this year, the Panel decided to increase the basic salary for members of principal authorities by less than 1% from spring 2014, in line with the proposed increase in salary to staff and to increase other payments proportionately.  Although still less than inflation this does, to some extent, help mitigate the further erosion of relative levels of remuneration.   The levels of payment set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales are not negotiable and are, as I have indicated, prescribed.

 

However, it remains the right of any individual Councillor to independently and voluntarily opt to forego all or any element of the remuneration to which they are entitled by writing to the Authority’s Proper Officer ( and I know you are aware of that).  Obviously, this is a personal decision for each Member and as such it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on behalf of Cabinet Members or, indeed, any member of this Council.

 

As far as my own position is concerned I will not be taking that action.

 

Finally, I would comment that, in my opinion, the number of hours spent carrying out those duties are not inconsistent with the payments made to all Members depending on their responsibilities within this Council.

 

Supplementary

 

Councillor Mahoney again asked whether the Leader was prepared to 'lead by example’ by refusing to accept the increase in allowance.

 

The Leader reiterated the fact that allowances were determined by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales on an annual basis and, again, confirmed he was not intending to take any reduction in allowance.

 

 

(xii)      Question from Councillor Kevin Mahoney

 

I understand that Vale of Glamorgan Library staff have met with Vale officers as part of the consultation process in the light of the recent draft proposals in regards to budgetary cuts and savings within their department.

 

Those staff have reported that at that meeting  a possible schedule has been laid out to them which if approved would see many staff members losing 1.... 2, or certainly in at least one case to my knowledge,  up to 13 hours per week  of their  paid employment with the Vale.

 

Could I ask how many members of senior management staff throughout the Vale Council, including Chief Learning and Skills Officer Jennifer Hill and of course the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service, it is proposed will be also losing 1 or 2  paid hours  per week off their current wage if the draft proposals are approved?

 

I’m sure that the Vale Cabinet will be only too anxious that the load of budgetary reassessment and cuts is shared by all rather than the unfortunate chosen few nominated by those who might have deemed themselves to be immune from their own proposals.

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

As Members are aware, the Council is required to make significant reductions in spending.  The budget report for 2014/15 projected the need to make a minimum of £20.909 million savings over 3 years.  

 

Councillor Mahoney will be aware that savings on this scale will continue to affect services from across the whole Council and cannot be achieved without an impact on many of our employees.  Our responsibility will be to continue to work with staff and our trade union colleagues to try and minimise the impact on such staff whilst achieving the necessary savings targets.

 

Senior managers from across our services have clearly not been exempt from the challenges of restructuring and have fallen in number by over 12% as a result of successive management restructures since 2012.  This has been achieved alongside a reduction in salary levels for all new Directors appointed since 2012 and a continuing pay freeze for such officers since 2009.

 

The number of staff on the Learning and Skills Directorate management team has, in particular, fallen by 25%, in the same period.

 

Whilst it is clear that the library strategy, if agreed, will make significant changes to the staffing arrangements in our libraries, it is too early to be able to comment on the effect on individual posts and individuals.  Our commitment is to discuss the detailed proposals in due course with staff and their Trade Unions in line with our agreed policies and procedures.  As indicated, this process will enable the Council to look at ways of minimising or reducing the adverse effects of change for our staff.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Mahoney again asked how many members of senior management, including the Cabinet Member, would be incurring a reduction in their allowances/salaries if the library proposals were implemented.

 

The Cabinet Member considered he had already answered the question in detail.  The Directorate concerned had already incurred cuts and a pay freeze for Chief Officers had been in place since 2009.  He was well aware of the policies and procedures which were in place and which were required to be followed in an exercise such as this and Trade Unions would be fully involved in discussions regarding how any proposals/changes could be delivered in a way that would least affect members of staff.

 

On a personal basis, the Cabinet Member was not intending to take a cut in salary.  However, he pointed out that he did not claim any expense as part of his role as a Cabinet Member.  Despite travelling throughout Wales (for example, to Aberystwyth) and, particularly, to Cardiff on a regular basis, he claimed nothing in terms of travelling, accommodation or subsistence expenses.  As such, he considered that he had personally already made a contribution to the savings required.

 

 

(xiii)     Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

Could Council receive an update on the Regionalising Regulatory Services Project discussed by Cabinet in July 2013 that proposes collaboration between ourselves, Bridgend and Cardiff Councils?              

 

Reply from the Leader

 

I am more than happy to give an update.  The question is quite fortuitous as a meeting of the Constituent Authorities took place earlier today.

 

As part of the Regional Collaboration initiative, the Councils are considering a shared service opportunity in relation to Regulatory Services between Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend.  A Shadow Joint Committee has been established (and has been meeting over recent months) to provide overall direction to the project.  It is therefore apt and timely to confirm that the Shadow Joint Committee met today to consider the latest project position, including proposals on how to take the project forward.

 

As a result of that meeting the Shadow Joint Committee recommended that the project would proceed to a pre-decision Scrutiny meeting of those proposals for consideration and that would take place during the summer of 2014, hopefully in this Council, during the July cycle, along with further engagement with staff and Trade Unions, prior to any reports being taken to Cabinet and Full Council in each of the three Authorities for a decision.

 

That is likely to be in early Autumn as the Council still wishes to fully engage with staff and Trade Unions.  However, I am  pleased to report that a very positive meeting took place earlier in the day, resulting in a collective agreement as to the way forward.  It is now up to each constituent authority to progress that agreed approach.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson referred to the funding for the scheme as having come from the Regional Collaboration Fund and totalling £250,000 and he asked whether the Cabinet Member could confirm that the £250,000 was still available for this project, given the delay to date.

 

The Leader stated that a delay had occurred due to the need to address various details and achieve the required savings from the collaborative agenda.  He confirmed that the Collaboration Fund had provided for £250,000 for the previous financial year, this year and the following year.  The money had been utilised last year and should be available for the coming year.  The assumption was that the funding would also be available for the following year but he reminded Members that provision was based on a rolling programme.  The Minister would take account of the outcome of the particular projects, what money had been spent and any not utilised.  The completion of the exercise would require a decision from each constituent authority, but he was hopeful that this would be reached.

 

 

(xiv)     Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

Under our current model of operation, social care includes a substantial amount of partnership working with the independent sector.  How does the Council ensure that staff working in the independent sector are treated as well as social care staff working for the Council?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

There are approximately 2,000 staff working in social care in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Council works hard to ensure that all staff across all sectors are supported to perform their important jobs as well as possible.  This is achieved in a number of ways.

 

The Council’s commissioning role in respect of social care gives us considerable opportunities to influence the whole range of service providers.   We exercise this influence in many areas, including the cost of care, the quality of care and the treatment of staff - recognising that all these areas are interlinked. 

 

For example, the GMB Congress was told last week that the Vale of Glamorgan Council pays residential care home owners a maximum of £524 per week for residents who qualify for their residential care costs to be paid by the Council.  This is the highest amount paid by 20 councils across Wales who responded to a GMB survey.  Blaenau Gwent pays a maximum of £426 per week for residents who qualify for their residential care.

 

The Social Services Directorate supports two provider forums in the Vale, to which all sector providers are invited.  These offer opportunities to share evidence about what constitutes good practice in care - including the key role performed by well- trained and valued staff in meeting not only regulatory standards, but also the requirements set out in our tender documents when procuring services externally.

 

During 2013/2014, over 25% of the social care training courses made available by the Council were provided to staff within the independent sector. This percentage has been maintained for many years.  Through an annual survey, the sector is able to identify the training required and their staff are able to access all the courses provided to Council-managed staff.  In many instances, the training is provided free of charge.

 

During 2013/2014, over 25% of the social care training courses made available by the Council were provided to staff within the independent sector. This percentage has been maintained for many years.  Through an annual survey, the sector is able identify the training required and their staff are able to access all the courses provided to Council-managed staff.  In many instances, the training is provided free of charge.

 

The Council has consistently helped independent sector providers to get access to recognised formal care qualifications free of charge via the Cardiff and Vale College.  There has been a marked impact on the number of staff supported to undertake these qualifications.  Recently, the Council invested in e-learning opportunities for the care sector which enables individuals across all sectors to access training at times to suit them.

 

All care providers are subject to inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.  If issues of concern are noted in inspection reports, advice and support is offered to the organisation concerned to enable them to support their staff appropriately.

 

The Care Council for Wales has published Codes of Practice for Employers and for Social Care Workers which clarify what is expected of employers in managing and supporting their staff to do their jobs well and the standards expected of workers within the care sector.  Providers providing services on behalf of this Council are required to work to these Codes of Practice.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson asked whether the Cabinet Member agreed with him and the Plaid Cymru Group in the National Assembly that the Living Wage should be paid to social care staff, both in the independent sector and the Council itself.

 

The Cabinet Member indicated he was not going to agree with that statement.  He considered the issue regarding people working in care to be a 'calling' and not  necessarily about what they were paid.  He considered it more to be about staff being supported, recognised, and thanked.  As with the nursing profession, he considered it to either be 'in your blood' or not and, as such, he felt an approach based solely on remuneration as constituting a 'wrong message’ to give out.

 

 

(xv)      Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

Cabinet last week received a report from the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS) on the significant impact of making substantial cuts to funding for volunteer services in the Vale.  Those have been avoided in this financial year. What discussions have been held with the volunteer sector regarding support for the next financial year?           

 

Reply from the Leader

 

The Member has actually highlighted the importance of volunteer services to the Council in his question when he states that substantial cuts have been avoided in this financial year (that is a fact).  I am sure that he will recall that this was against a backdrop of significant cuts in the Council’s funding from Welsh Government for the current year, which amounted to 5% or £8.5 million in cash terms.

 

The Council’s financial position going forward paints no better a picture with the prospects of cuts of a similar nature next year.  Looking at alternative forms of service delivery will, therefore, become a priority for services and this will include engaging with VCVS and the voluntary and third sector generally.  However, it will also be incumbent upon services to ensure that existing and future arrangements represent value for money and are targeted at improving priority outcomes for the Council.  As such, neither increases nor cuts in the future funding of the voluntary and third sector can be ruled out as each decision will be made on its merits following discussions with the affected groups.

 

In the meantime, discussions will continue with the voluntary sector representatives and I can confirm that the Managing Director and I had informal discussions with the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services Chief Executive yesterday on this very issue.  That will be continuing as we explore the budget proposals for the coming year.  

 

Supplemental

 

Referring to a concern being that cuts to voluntary services represented a false economy, Councillor Dr. Johnson was disappointed that the Cabinet Member seemed unable to give a commitment to maintaining service funding next year and asked whether an indication of that budget line could be given and whether the voluntary groups themselves would receive that information.

 

The Leader reiterated the fact that discussions were regular and ongoing.  He was unable to provide a commitment that the Council would retain the same level of funding for all services.  Directors had been given the task of looking for savings comprising three scenarios of a 1½% cut to the indicative settlement that the Council anticipated,. a 3% cut or a 4½% cut in its funding.  He considered it was likely to be a higher, rather than lower, figure.  All services were going to have to look for savings and to carry out services more efficiently.  That had to include the Third Sector and they were aware of that.  The Council had to provide statutory services and, therefore, prioritise those other services that it currently supplied and provided to the public. 

 

The Council would need to go through the budget process.  The Medium Term Financial Plan would be coming out shortly.  A meeting had taken place with National Assembly Members and they had been specifically asked regarding the likely level of funding the Council was going to be provided with.  They were currently unable to provide that information but an indicative budget settlement was anticipated in October.  Therefore, the Council had to continue to work with the scenarios outlined above. 

 

 

(xvi)     Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What consideration has been given to a ban on the release of 'sky lanterns’ in the Vale of Glamorgan?             

 

Reply from the Leader

 

Following a report (Sky Lanterns and Helium Balloons: An Assessment of Impacts on Livestock and the Environment – May 2013), jointly commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government, politicians have refused calls for a ban on sky lanterns because the potential risk of death and injury they pose to livestock is 'low’.

 

In response to the report a Defra spokesman said: 'Whilst farmers have lost livestock due to ingested wire from sky lanterns, the evidence from this independent report shows that any widespread risk of injury and death to cattle and impact on the environment is low. Based on these findings, we have no plans to ban the use of sky lanterns'.

Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, said "Given these findings, it would be difficult to justify a ban on either sky lanterns or helium balloons".

 

Conwy Council was said to be the first in Wales to ban them on its land saying usage had increased and some did not decompose. Their Members agreed to support the adoption of the Outdoor Balloon Release Policy, which prohibits balloon releases from any Council-owned and / or controlled green spaces. 

 

Should anything more than a ban on Council-owned land be required it would need a change in legislation and with the current views of government this seems unlikely.  In addition the level of complaints or known incidents associated with Sky, or Chinese lanterns as they are also called, is very low in the Vale of Glamorgan, which again, does not justify support for a ban at this time.

 

However, I am very mindful of their inherent danger and personally do not approve of them, particularly as lanterns can contain flammable substances, which if they failed could cause injury to anyone they fall on, particularly in the case of young children.  Thankfully, to my knowledge, no such incident has been reported in the Vale.  I will, therefore, ask officers to continue to monitor the situation.

 

 

(xvii)    Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

Could Council receive an update on (a) the number of households in the Vale of Glamorgan paying the bedroom tax, including those in housing association accommodation, and (b) how many households have been evicted from their homes as a result of being unable to afford this 'spare room subsidy’?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

As of this month the number of public housing properties affected by the under- occupation charge in the Vale of Glamorgan is 953.

 

There have been no evictions within the Council’s housing stock that have been solely attributable to the under-occupancy charge.  Details are due shortly in respect of the position with our housing association partners up to June 2014, though the latest recorded position, which included February and March 2014, also indicated no evictions that were solely attributable to the charge.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson stated that in December 2013, the Cabinet Member quoted figures from an October report and indicated that quarterly updates would be submitted in line with Task and Finish Group recommendations.  He asked whether those reports had been published, as he had not seen any at Corporate Resources or Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committees and he sought an update regarding the current position.

 

The Leader stated that the last update of the Task and Finish Group was actually in November 2013 at the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).  There was a requirement to provide a six-monthly update and that was due very shortly.

 

 

(xviii)   Question from Councillor Kevin Mahoney

 

The recent draft proposal for alterations in the manning and running of a number of branch libraries throughout the Vale, including the one situated in my own ward of Sully, relies on the successful recruitment of quite substantial numbers of community volunteers in order to cater for the removal of the current  professional  staff.

 

A general figure of around 40 volunteers per branch library has been mooted to me by the Chief Learning and Skills Officer, as the minimum number required for the proposals for these branch libraries to remain effective and open based on experiences from other parts of the UK.

 

Could I please have an assurance from the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service that, if the draft proposals are implemented, no professional staff will be removed from Sully library before a total of at least 40 volunteers have given a commitment to help?

 

Could I also have an assurance that even if the numbers of volunteers estimated to be required in order to run Sully Library under such a scheme is initially reached that if early enthusiasm wanes that professional staff will be drafted in, in order that this important service and facility within our community is safeguarded?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

At the risk of appearing repetitive, I do need to emphasise that, following the recent meeting of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee at which the draft Library Strategy was considered, a further report is being prepared for Cabinet consideration.

 

I can also confirm that, at the Scrutiny Committee, information was provided about the experience of other Councils that have developed community libraries.  Experience elsewhere indicates that a pool of around 40 volunteers filling a range of roles is a good basis for providing a community library.  The Committee also discussed the value of a community librarian role, employed by the Council, to support the development and operation of community libraries in order that robust and sustainable arrangements are established.

 

 

135            REVIEW OF THE COUNCIL CONSTITUTION/OFFICER DELEGATIONS (MO) -

 

(Given the report covered areas relating to legislation regarding Chief Officers’ appointment and remuneration, all officers with the exception of the Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer left the meeting prior to consideration of this item).

 

Since the formal introduction of the Council's new executive arrangements in May 2002, the Constitution had remained under review and would continue to be so on an ongoing basis.  Under Article 15 of the Constitution the Monitoring Officer had a duty to monitor and review the operation of the Constitution to ensure that the aims and principles contained therein were given full effect.  Any changes considered necessary were subject to approval by the Full Council after consideration of the proposals by the Monitoring Officer.

 

A cross-party Constitution Working Party had been established to consider amendments to the Council's existing Constitution, taking into account the new Model Version issued for consideration/adaptation by local authorities in Wales.  Various officers had been going through the existing Constitution and preparing draft revised sections for consideration by the Working Party.  Often, the text was very similar to the current version.  However, there were also various new legislative requirements and provisions and other factors which needed to be taken into account and which were reflected in the Model Version.  The Working Party would continue to meet as necessary prior to a report being submitted to the Council in due course.

 

Notwithstanding, and in advance of, the above, Appendix A to the report contained a number of proposed amendments / updates / recommendations to the Constitution together with the rationale for such.  In summary, these related to  

  • The need to comply with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (Wales) Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2014, which take effect from 1st July 2014, in relation to :
  • The employment conditions of the Head of Democratic Services with regard to appointment, disciplinary action and dismissal
  • The recruitment and appointment of Chief Officers on remuneration of £100,000 or more
  • The determination or variation of Chief Officers' pay
  • The delegated powers of Chief Officers and particular delegations of the Director of Learning and Skills and the Director of Development Services and the Operational Manager (Development and Building Control) .

The opportunity would also be taken to make any minor typographical / housekeeping changes to bring the document up to date.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the following amendments/additions to the Council’s Constitution be approved:

 

[View Amendments]

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