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VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of a Special Meeting held on 10th March, 2016.

 

Present:  Councillor Fred Johnson (Mayor); Councillors Antony Bennett, Richard Bertin, Janice Birch, 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, Eric Hacker, Howard Hamilton, 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, Anthony Powell, Rhona Probert, Gwyn Roberts, John Thomas, Ray Thomas, Rhodri Traherne, Steffan Wiliam, Margaret Wilkinson, Christopher Williams, Clive Williams and Edward Williams. 

 

 

932     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Jeff James and Mark Wilson.

 

 

933     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

934     COUNCIL TAX PROPOSALS 2016/17 (LEADER) -

 

In introducing the report, the Leader referred to the recommendations of Cabinet of 7th March, 2016, which had been emailed to Members and also tabled at the meeting.  He confirmed that the recommendation was that the Council Tax for the year be set at 3.9% (equating to £41.67 per year for Band D properties).  The Council was required under statute to fix the level of Council Tax for 2016/17 by 11th March 2016.

 

In previous years, the provisional settlement had been received from Welsh Government (WG) during October, with the final settlement being received during December. This year, however, the provisional settlement proposals were not received until December 2015, due to the late timing of the UK Government’s Spending Review.  Local Authorities were advised of their final settlement on 2nd March 2016 and the Final Budget had been debated by WG on 9th March 2016.

 

The proposed revenue budget and Council Tax level for the coming year were normally presented via a single report to Cabinet and Council.  However, due to the late announcement of the final settlement and the final budget being debated by WG on 9th March 2016, the setting of the budget and the Council Tax for 2016/17 were being presented to separate meetings.  The revenue budget for 2016/17 was approved by Council on 2nd March 2016 and the proposals for the 2016/17 Council Tax, as contained in the report to Cabinet on 7th March 2016, were now before Council for consideration.

 

The final revenue budget for 2016/17 was approved by Council on 2nd March 2016 as £213.288m.

 

The Council’s final settlement figures from WG for the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) were £112.506m and for Non-Domestic Rates was £37.942m. These amounts together totalled a final Aggregate External Finance (AEF) of £150.448m. With the revenue budget set as £213.288m, deducting from this the AEF of £150.448m produced a requirement of £62.84m to be met from Council Tax.  Dividing this by the Council Tax base of 56,550, gave a level of Council Tax for this Council’s purposes (excluding police and community council precepts) for Band D properties of £1,111.23.  This was an increase over the current year of £41.67 or 3.9%.

 

In order to fund the revenue budget for 2016/17 of £213.288m, as approved by Council on 2nd March 2016, Council Tax of £62.84m is required.

 

The Leader reminded Members that the Council’s budget had been set at the Council Meeting held on 2nd March, 2016.  However (as alluded to above), the setting of the Council Tax had had to await a WG debate on 9th March, 2016.  The Leader confirmed that no changes had been made to the Council’s settlement as a result of that debate.  He reminded Members of the legal requirement on the Council to set a balanced budget and formally moved the recommendations from Cabinet.  The Deputy Leader duly seconded the Motion.

 

Councillor John Thomas, Leader of the Conservative Group indicated that the Group would not be supporting the proposed Council Tax increase.  He reminded Members that the Conservative Group had not supported the budget at the meeting on 2nd March, but he acknowledged that the process had now been completed and the budget set.  He referred to the fact that, had the Council received a fairer funding provision, similar to Cardiff Council, the situation would have been less difficult. 

 

Councillor Penrose, Leader of the Independent Group, referred to the fact that, for similar reasons alluded to by Councillor Thomas, the Group would not be supporting the Motion.  He considered it would have been advantageous if Members had been informed by e-mail that no changes had occurred as a result of the previous day’s WG debate.  He also alluded to the fact that, in some Wards, there was a high level of residents living in higher banded properties who, nevertheless, were on fixed incomes, of pension age or retired and who had no additional source of income to meet ongoing Council Tax increases (particularly when above the rate of inflation).  The Independent Group also considered that certain of the schemes within the Reshaping Services Programme could be a little more innovative. 

 

Councillor Mahoney acknowledged the need to set a balanced budget, but felt there to be a need to raise points that he had done on an annual basis in terms of the Council Tax debate.  He also alluded to a considered disparity between the funding provided by WG to Cardiff Council compared to the Vale of Glamorgan and he questioned what the Administration was doing in terms of attempting to reduce that disparity.  He also alluded to the fact that the Leader had referred at the meeting on 2nd March, 2016 to the fact that Council Tax levels in England were, on average, higher than in Wales.  However, he considered it disingenuous to refer to that without also pointing out that the average wage in Wales was some £5,000 per year less than in England.

 

Councillor Franks, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group, questioned what the 3.9% increase in Council Tax would be utilised for and what objectives the Administration had.  He referred to already hard-pressed Council Tax payers now having to face a further large rise.  He suggested that some £350,000 had had to be found given the fact that the Council’s car parking proposals had been put on hold.  He referred to the Council as claiming credit for attracting the new funfair to Barry Island, but he stated that the owner of the facility, Henry Danter, did not support the Council’s claims.  He felt the Council was running out of ideas and enthusiasm and felt that it would be down to other parties to progress regeneration projects.

 

Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson considered it to have been somewhat inappropriate that the Council had had to consider/agree its budget separately to the setting of the Council Tax as would normally be the case.  He referred to the Conservative Group as opposing both the budget and Council Tax proposals, but to them having no alternative proposals.  He referred to the cuts that WG had imposed on the Council and to his understanding that the Council was amongst the worst third in terms of the reduction (possibly the worst of any Labour- run authority in Wales). 

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson referred to the current Administration as having consistently set Council Tax higher than other places in Wales and to his view that a higher level of reserves should have been utilised. 

 

Councillor Bertin referred to the recommendations as representing another ‘inflation busting’ tax rise from the Administration.  He felt more should be done to seek to achieve fairer funding for the Council.  He was of the view that more reserves should be utilised and he also felt that the blame lay not only with the Westminster Government, but with WG.  He considered the proposed increase of 3.9% to be unfair. 

 

Councillor Burnett indicated she would clarify certain points which had been raised.  She alluded to there being evidence that indicated that Council Tax within Metropolitan areas was normally lower than within rural, or semi-rural, areas and she quoted figures to illustrate that.  She referred to the fact that the Band D figure for the Vale of Glamorgan the previous year had been lower than the Wales average.  She pointed out that, in England, 90% of local authorities would be cutting their Council Tax, 40% cutting front-line services and 82% reducing their reserves. 

 

Councillor Burnett also referred to the Council’s major investment in areas such as the Welsh Housing Quality Standards and delivering new school provision.  She concluded by referring to the Council’s moves to protect the most vulnerable residents by increasing its Social Care budget by an extra £2.2m. 

 

The Deputy Leader, in alluding to suggestions regarding the use of additional reserves, reminded Members that reserves could only be spent once.  However, the pressures facing the Council were ongoing and were common to Councils throughout the United Kingdom as a result of the cuts imposed by the Westminster Government and, as far as Wales was concerned, passed on by WG. 

 

He referred to the fact that the proposed 3.9% increase would protect as many of the services delivered by the Council as possible.  He reminded Members that, even with the proposed increase, the Council would be unable to meet all its cost pressures.  He felt that, if the proposal was not approved, services would be further affected. 

 

Referring to the points raised regarding expenditure on education, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools pointed out that the revenue account for education had been set via the Indicator Base Assessment (IBA) set by WG each year for the last four years.  The current Administration was the only one that had done that and he alluded to there being a direct correlation between the higher level of Council Tax and increased funding for schools.  Whilst there was still a real term cut, the Administration was trying its best to keep that to a far lower level than previously passed on.  He referred to increased investment in terms of Asset Renewal within education.

 

Councillor John also alluded to the impact of reductions in funding imposed on the Council.  He was sure that no Members would, ideally, want to raise the level of Council Tax, but that it was inevitable if services were to be protected where possible.  He alluded to the lack of alternative proposals suggested and reminded Members of the need to set the Council Tax. 

 

In summing up, the Leader referred to the amendment proposed by the Plaid Cymru Group at the meeting on 2nd March, 2016 in terms of reducing the funding to be met from Council Tax and increasing the amount of money to be taken from the Council Fund Reserves.  He pointed out that the amendment (which had been lost) would not have changed the budget or service provision.  He alluded to the consideration of the budget by the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) and to the fact that the Cabinet had responded to that by agreeing an additional £2.2m for the Social Services budget (which actually equated to a 3.6% increase in Council Tax alone). 

 

The Leader disputed any suggestion (as made earlier) that any of the Council’s secondary schools were in a ‘terrible condition’ and he pointed out that the proposal by Plaid Cymru that an additional £4m be provided each year for secondary education had, in fact, not been supported by that Group when the matter was considered at the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).

 

He considered that all Members would be of the view that the current funding formula within which the Council was required to operate was unfair, but, nevertheless, there was a requirement for the Council to set a balanced budget.  Although reference had been made earlier to the potential impact on residents of higher banded properties, the Leader reminded Members that Band D was used as the ‘universal balance’ in order to provide a consistent comparison across local authorities. 

 

As far as the Reshaping Services programme was concerned, the Leader acknowledged the need to maintain progress.  He also reiterated the comments made by the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools in terms of funding for education. 

 

Given the various commitment that the Council had made in terms of setting its overall budget, the Leader was of the view that the proposed increase of 3.9% was not unreasonable.  He also alluded to the lack of alternative proposals which had been put forward by Opposition Groups during the consideration of the proposed budget by Scrutiny Committees.  The Council had continued to be prudent in its approach to the utilising of reserves and had taken advice from the Section 151 Officer accordingly. 

 

A request was made that a Recorded Vote took place and the requisite number of Members stood to confirm that this would be the case.  Voting took place as follows:

 

For   the Motion

Against   the Motion

Abstain

Councillors:

Mrs.   M.E.J. Birch

Councillors

A.G.   Bennett

Councillors

K.   Hatton

Ms.   R. Birch

R.J.   Bertin

 

Ms.   B.E. Brooks

J.C.   Bird

 

L.   Burnett

P.J.   Clarke

 

Mrs.   C.L. Curtis

G.A.   Cox

 

R.F.   Curtis

C.P.   Franks

 

Mrs.   P. Drake

Mrs.   V.M. Hartrey

 

J.   Drysdale

N.P.   Hodges

 

Ms.   K.E. Edmunds

T.H.   Jarvie

 

S.C.   Egan

Dr.   I.J. Johnson

 

C.P.J.   Elmore

Mrs.   M. Kelly Owen

 

E.   Hacker

K.P.   Mahoney

 

H.C.   Hamilton

A.   Parker

 

G.   John

R.A.   Penrose

 

F.T.   Johnson

J.W.   Thomas

 

P.G.   King

R.P.   Thomas

 

Mrs.   A.J. Moore

R.L.   Traherne

 

N.   Moore

S.T.   Wiliam

 

A.G.   Powell

A.C.   Williams

 

Ms.   R.F. Probert

C.J.   Williams

 

G.   Roberts

 

 

Mrs.   M.R. Wilkinson

 

 

E.   Williams

 

 

23

20

1

 

and it was

 

[View Council Resolution]

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