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VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of a Special Meeting held on 12th November, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor Howard Hamilton (Mayor); Councillors  Richard Bertin, Rhiannon 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, Eric Hacker, Val Hartrey, Keith Hatton, Nic Hodges, Jeff James, Gwyn John, Fred Johnson, Dr. Ian Johnson, Peter King, Kevin Mahoney, Anne Moore, Neil Moore, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Anthony Powell, Audrey Preston, Rhona Probert, Gwyn Roberts, Ray Thomas, Steffan Wiliam, Margaret Wilkinson, Clive Williams, Christopher Williams, Edward Williams and Mark Wilson.

 

 

598       APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Janice Birch, Hunter Jarvie, Maureen Kelly Owen, John Thomas and Rhodri Traherne.

 

 

599       DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillors Claire Curtis and Rob Curtis declared an interest in Agenda Items 3 and 4 on the grounds that they both had a personal friend within the service area concerned.  Councillor Gwyn Roberts also declared an interest in Agenda Items 3 and 4 on the grounds that his partner was employed within the service area concerned in Cardiff Council.  All three Members left for the remainder of the meeting.

 

 

600       REGIONALISING REGULATORY SERVICES PROJECT (LEADER) -

 

As part of the Welsh Government's Regional Collaboration Fund, Bridgend, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils had considered a shared service opportunity in relation to Regulatory Services. The proposal envisaged an integrated service operating under a single management structure for the Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Licensing functions with a shared governance arrangement ensuring full elected Member involvement.

 

The Project had been identified as an opportunity for the Councils to create a new and innovative service on a regional basis that could deal with changing customer demands at a time of reduced levels of funding. In considering matters, the Councils were conscious of the White Paper "Reforming Local Government"; the Welsh Government’s consultation paper about the future of Local Government in Wales and the likely timescales. However, there was a need to proceed with this project at the current time to ensure continued delivery of a sustainable and resilient Regulatory service, given the financial pressures being experienced by all three Councils.

 

The financial and non-financial benefits of the project were anticipated to include:

·         Development of  a robust and sustainable collaborative service best placed to meet future service and financial challenges;

·         Development of best practice for the benefit of businesses and consumers;

·         Enhanced flexibility and service resilience to respond to emergencies and changing levels of demand through economies of scale;

·         Opportunities to enhance workforce development and embrace innovative technical and mobile working practices;

·         Annual financial efficiencies across the three Authorities to assist in meeting the needs of the Councils' medium term financial plans;

·         Improved access to a wider range of specialist knowledge;

·         The creation of a transferrable model for collaboration from which the Councils and other bodies can learn to improve future collaborative working projects.

 

The project was granted funding of £250,000 in 2013/14 to support development and implementation. Funding for a further two years was also approved in principle by the Welsh Government from the Regional Collaboration Fund for a further £250,000 per annum.

 

In July 2013, the Cabinets of all three Councils (Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend) received a report proposing that a single shared service be created comprising the Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Licensing functions of each Council under a single management structure.

 

In accordance with the Cabinet decisions in July 2013 the following activities had been progressed:

 

·         Funding from the Regional Collaboration Fund was used to appoint WS Atkins Limited (Atkins) to develop and test the proposal as a detailed business case and determine the feasibility of such a venture.  The work completed by Atkins had been complemented by a cross-council project team.

·         The Chief Executive from Bridgend Council had undertaken the role of Chief Executive Project Sponsor.

·         The Head of Regulatory Services from Cardiff Council had assumed responsibility as the interim project manager for the initial development phase of the project.

·         The Heads of Regulatory Services from each Council had continued to work together to support preparations for the proposed collaborative service whilst ensuring continuity of service.

·         A Shadow Joint Committee had been established to provide overall direction for the project pending decision by each Authority as to the way forward.  The Shadow Joint Committee had comprised two elected Members from each authority.

·         Staff and Trade Unions had been briefed throughout the development of the project.  A Trade Union Forum had been established, with representatives from the recognised trade unions across Bridgend, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils.  Workshops had been held with staff and managers from each Council during the consultancy assignment to inform the development of the Target Operating Model, Business Case and Implementation Plan.  Staff briefings had been held in each Council during the project to date and there were further sessions planned.

·         The Council had entered into an interim collaborative working agreement on this matter.

 

The Councils had considered their duties under relevant equalities legislation and had given due regard to the legislation in developing proposals for the shared service.  An Equality Impact Assessment had been prepared (Appendix D to the report) to draw specific equalities issues to the fore and identify ways to manage them; this document would be further developed and updated at appropriate intervals should a decision be made to proceed.

 

A pre-Cabinet decision engagement process had been undertaken, running from 22nd July to 5th September 2014. This process had included a draft of the report now before Council being tabled at relevant Scrutiny Committees in all three Authorities.  In addition, a series of staff engagement events and meetings with Trade Unions had been held to seek views on the proposals for collaboration.

 

This report set out the result of the detailed work undertaken by the Councils to date on developing proposals for the shared regulatory service and, as a result of the decisions taken by Cabinet in July 2013, sought approval to create the shared service in line with the recommendations contained in the report.  

 

In summarising the report, the Leader also reminded Members of the "exempt" related information contained under Part II of the agenda (which comprised a full un-redacted version of Appendix N to Appendix B of the full report).

 

As alluded to above, in excess of 500 questions and comments had been submitted by stakeholders, with responses being provided by the project team.  Appendix F contained details of the questions, comments and responses from the pre-decision Scrutiny process in this Council.  Appendix G contained a log of all questions and comments (with accompanying answers) submitted by staff and Trade Unions in this Council.  Appendix H contained the comments, questions and responses from Scrutiny committees in the two partner Authorities.  Appendix I contained the questions and comments (with accompanying answers) submitted by staff and Trade Unions in the two partner Authorities.

 

Any issues of accuracy highlighted during this process had been reviewed and were not considered to undermine the principles of the collaboration.  Corrections would be made as necessary during the course of the project, should approval be given to proceed.

 

A series of common themes emerged during the engagement process. These had been very helpful in developing this report and consideration had been given to each, with feedback being incorporated into the report where appropriate. In particular, issues were raised regarding:

 

·         potential transfer of staff to new service

·         consultation on the proposed organisational structure for the new service

·         selection of staff for the new roles in the new service

·         perceived inaccuracies in the Atkins report

·         professional status of officers

·         ICT

·         consideration of alternative options

·         maintaining a local link between the service and its community.

 

In terms of maintaining a local link between the service and its community, one of the issues raised during this Council’s Scrutiny process, was that of seeking an assurance that members of the public who did not have access to digitalised means of communication could interact with the Joint Service.  The proposed shared service would continue to operate in all three Council areas, maintaining an office location in each to handle face-to-face contact with service users and elected Members. This would be supported by ICT to enable effective and efficient working and communication within, and across, the three areas

 

The comprehensive report submitted to Council included details of the following:

 

·         consultancy commission (paras. 13-16)

·         business case (paras. 17-25)

·         target operating model (TOM) (paras. 26-28)

·         governance (paras. 29-35)

·         indicative employment costs (paras. 36-39)

·         TUPE protection costs (para. 40)

·         Host Employer costs (paras. 41-44)

·         ICT and systems (para. 45)

·         customer contact (para. 46)

·         property (paras. 47-49)

·         implementation approach (paras. 50-55)

·         financial implications (paras 56-82)

·         Human Resources and employment issues (paras. 83-103)

·         legal implications (paras. 105-113)

·         scrutiny arrangements (paras. 114-115)

·         income (para. 116)

·         Information Governance, management and security (paras. 117-120)

·         equalities (para. 122)

·         consultation process (paras. 125-148).

 

Again, in summarising the report, the Leader alluded to Paragraph 114, which acknowledged the fact that, initially, Scrutiny would be undertaken by the three Authorities’ existing Scrutiny Committees.  However, it was also acknowledged that the need to explore/progress joint scrutiny arrangements had been alluded to in all three Authorities.

 

The Leader indicated that, following questions from Members and the debate on the matter, there would also be the need to bear in mind the information contained in Part II of the agenda when the recommendations before Council were considered.

 

Councillor Chris Williams (referring to his experience as Chairman of the Prosiect Gwyrdd Joint Scrutiny Committee) expressed his hope that joint scrutiny of the new service would be established early on in the process.  He felt that there was an opportunity for the Council, as Host Authority, to 'lead’ on scrutiny. 

 

Councillor Jeff James acknowledged that the proposals represented the most appropriate way forward and complimented all those involved in the project.  Whilst understanding the rationale of delegating various powers to the Joint Committee, he asked whether there should be an outline of the range of delegated powers set out.  He queried whether, for instance, if delegations fell outside the remit of the Joint Committee, the respective Councils could exercise a limit on such. 

 

The Leader indicated that the position was set out in the Target Operating Model (TOM).  As provided for within the TOM, the Joint Committee would operate in line with the prescribed targets/limits.  He reminded Members that, as provided for under Section 7(1) of the Licensing Act 2003, all functions under the Act would remain the responsibility of the Licensing Committee of each specific Council. 

 

At that point in the meeting, the Leader moved that Standing Orders be suspended for the remainder of the meeting to allow officers to speak.  Councillor James duly seconded the proposal. 

 

The Monitoring Officer pointed out that certain delegations to the Joint Committee were as set out in the recommendations before Council.  She alluded to Paragraph 107 of the report which contained Heads of Terms for the Joint Working Agreement (JWA) to be drawn up between the three Authorities.  The JWA would deal with, in part, details of the various delegations.  Recommendation (10) of the report before Council proposed delegating authority to the Managing Director, in consultation with the Leader, to conclude, and execute the JWA.  Delegations which fell outside the agreed provision within the JWA would revert back to the respective Authorities. 

 

Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson reminded Members that he had queried in June 2014 why there had been a delay since the Cabinet decision of the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2014.  He quoted the reference in the report to cash in-flows and out-flows.  Whilst recognising the concept of extra service resilience, he considered this only applied if service provision had not already been severely cut.  However, he suggested that, in fact, given the other savings identified across the three Authorities, the savings proposed in the original Atkins Report were substantially reduced in the updated figures and he considered savings were based around reducing staff levels.

 

Referring to the potential reduction of full-time posts, Councillor Dr. Johnson suggested that this represented around a third of total posts.  He also alluded to potential issues relating to the Food Hygiene service, given his observations that some premises within Barry appeared to not be conforming with certain of the relevant legislative provisions. 

 

Referring to pages 36 and 37 of the Atkins Report, he felt that, whatever model was adopted, there would be continued costs involved.  He was supportive of collaboration, where such an approach maintained existing best practice and access to quality services.  He was pleased that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was to be the Host Authority.

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson moved a Motion to Recommendation (1) of the report to the effect that "the Council expresses concern that public services may be negatively impacted upon, given a potential reduction of over 31% of full-time posts within the proposed joint service".

 

The Leader considered that the Atkins Report set out clearly the financial situation/implications of the proposals.  As far as Councillor Dr. Johnson’s reference to Food Hygiene was concerned, he reminded him (and, indeed, all Members) of his obligation to report any apparent non-compliance to relevant officers. 

 

The Leader referred to the projected savings of between £1m and £1.3m.  The proposals followed good practice, an aspect which had been acknowledged by the Auditor General for Wales Report entitled "Delivering with Less – the Impact on Environmental Health Services and Citizens" and quoted from paragraph 4.10 of the report.

 

The Leader indicated that he would be resisting the Motion from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson.  The Leader moved the recommendations set out in the report and this was duly seconded by the Deputy Leader.

 

Councillor Franks, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group informed Members that further amendments to the substantive recommendations before Council were likely to be moved. 

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson’s amendment was duly seconded by Councillor Hodges. 

 

The Leader alluded to Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson’s reference to a 31% reduction in full-time posts.  He pointed out that was a matter which was to be subject to further discussion during the process.  The Business Case was designed to provide the best, and most resilient, service possible.  The level of service provided would be monitored by the Joint Committee.

 

On being put to the vote, the amendment from Councillor Dr. Johnson was lost. 

 

Councillor Hodges referred to the fact that specific Members’ names were listed in Recommendation (7) as the Council’s proposed representatives on the Joint Committee.  He suggested that, perhaps, it might be more appropriate for the Council’s representation to comprise two Cabinet Members.  He also compared the speed with which the new Head of Service appointment was seeking to be progressed, compared to a much longer process set out in terms of any Joint Scrutiny of the new Service. 

 

Councillor Hodges moved an amendment (it being duly seconded by Councillor Franks) that Recommendation (7) be amended to read "subject to the decisions set out above being made, that Council approves the appointment of the relevant Cabinet Member and the Leader as the Authority’s Member representatives on the Joint Committee". 

 

The Leader pointed out that Councillor Bronwen Brooks was the Cabinet Member with responsibility for certain Regulatory Services functions.  Councillor Powell (as the other proposed representative) was the Chairman of the Council’s Licensing Committee.  This was the approach to membership being followed in the other two Authorities.  The Leader indicated he would resist the amendment. 

 

Upon being put to the vote, the above amendment was voted upon and lost.

 

Councillor Franks indicated he supported the general aspirations behind the proposals and of collaborating with Bridgend and Cardiff Councils.  He also understood the need to streamline services and achieve savings.  He was, however, concerned regarding certain aspects of the proposals.  Despite the Leader’s earlier comments regarding scrutiny arrangements, he felt there to be a need for further clarification.  He also alluded to the proposed Membership of the Joint Committee which would, in effect, result in the exclusion of various political groups across the three Councils. 

 

Councillor Franks moved an amendment to Recommendation (2) (it being duly seconded by Councillor Hodges) to the effect that it incorporated provision for scrutiny of the Joint Committee to be undertaken by the relevant Scrutiny Committee of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

Councillor James sought an assurance that any joint delegations being put into place would include an obligation on the part of relevant officers to appear before relevant individual Scrutiny Committees of each Council. 

 

The Leader reiterated the fact that Paragraph 114 of the report set out the initial arrangements for scrutiny of the Joint Service as well as acknowledging the likelihood of Joint Scrutiny.  He confirmed that the Joint Committee, and officers, would, in effect, be accountable to the relevant Scrutiny Committees in each of the three authorities.  The Leader pointed out that the Joint Committee was required to be politically balanced.  Again, he indicated he would resist the amendment which had been moved. 

 

Upon being put to the vote, the above amendment was voted upon and lost.

 

Prior to the recommendations contained in the report being considered, the Leader again reminded Members of the existence of 'exempt’ Part II information which related to the Part I report.  He reminded Members that this information was required to be taken into account when considering the recommendations.  This was acknowledged by Members, but did not result in any discussion on that specific information or, consequently, any need to exclude the press and public.

 

Upon being put to the vote the recommendations were approved and it was

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T Council approves the business case, target operating model and implementation plan for the creation of a shared regulatory service based on the 'collaborate and change’ model set out and described in Appendix A to the report, as amended by Appendix B, with governance arrangements based on a Joint Committee model as further detailed in the body of this report and associated Part Two report.

 

(2)       T H A T further to recommendation (1), (i.) with effect from the 1st April 2015 such shared regulatory service with Bridgend County Borough Council and the City of Cardiff Council be created and (ii.) a joint committee be established (hereinafter referred to as the 'Joint Committee’) on conclusion of the Joint Working Agreement referred to in resolution (10).

 

(3)       It be noted that those Regulatory Services functions that are the responsibility of the Executive/Cabinet (set out in appendix C, part A) be delegated to the Joint Committee. It also be noted that the detailed terms of the delegation will be set out in the Joint Working Agreement referred to in resolution (10).

 

(4)       T H A T those Regulatory Service functions that are the responsibility of Council (set out in appendix C, part B), be delegated to the Joint Committee. It be noted that the detailed terms of the delegation will be set out in the Joint Working Agreement referred to in resolution (10).

 

(5)       It be noted that those functions (listed in appendix C, part C) would remain the responsibility of each local authority, which will be supported in carrying out those functions as detailed in the body of this report. It also be noted that the detailed terms of the delegation will be set out in the Joint Working Agreement referred to in resolution (10).

 

(6)       T H A T Council approves the Vale of Glamorgan Council as the host (employing) authority for the shared regulatory service.

 

(7)       T H A T Council approves the appointment of Councillor Bronwen Brooks and Councillor Anthony Powell as the Authority’s member representatives on the Joint Committee.

 

(8)       T H A T Council approves the establishment of the post of Head of the new Service in accordance with the provisions as set out in paragraph 102 of the report.

 

(9)       T H A T the terms of reference of the Joint Committee include delegated powers from Council to appoint the Head of the new Service.

 

(10)     T H A T Council delegates authority to the Managing Director, in consultation with the Leader, to carry out on behalf of the Authority, all associated matters involved in setting up the Shared Regulatory Service in respect of any such matters that are the responsibility of the Council.  It be noted that such delegated matters include, without limitation to the generality of the forgoing:

 

(i)         Immediate conclusion and execution of a Joint Working Agreement for the shared regulatory service, to include, amongst other things, details of income and cost sharing and those matters referred to in the Legal Implications content of this report;

 

(ii)        Overseeing and directing a project board of officers established to implement the shared service;

 

(iii)       Undertaking all required statutory and other consultation on the proposed transfer of staff to the host (employing) authority;

 

(iv)       Subject to considering the outcome of such consultation, receiving the transfer of employees to the Vale of Glamorgan Council as host (employing) authority; to undertake all required statutory and other consultation on the proposed remodelling/restructuring and subject to considering the outcome of such consultation to undertake the proposed reorganisation/remodelling, making any subsequent refinements to the proposals, provided always that matters shall be reported back to Cabinet in respect of any material refinements that fall outside of the proposals for the shared Regulatory service as set out in this report, and

 

(v)        Producing a three year business plan for the service, seeking to outline how the service will be developed in detail and including the identification of further year on year savings over the three year period.

 

(11)     T H A T, in approving resolutions (1) – (10) above, the Council has considered the views of the Scrutiny Committees, staff and Trade Unions as appended to the report and the Council's Duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the Equalities Impact assessment attached as Appendix D.

 

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