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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 8th November, 2011.

 

Present: Councillor J.F. Fraser (Chairman); Councillor E.T. Williams (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. P. Drake, K. Hatton, G. John, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, Mrs. A.J. Moore, N. Moore, Mrs. A.J. Preston, A.C. Williams and Miss. S.J.C. Williams.

 

Also present: Councillor G.C. Kemp.

 

 

587     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meetings held on 3rd October and 11th October, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

588     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

589     DRAFT HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN 2011 AND HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN UPDATE (REF AND DFICTP AND DLPPHS) -

 

Cabinet had, on 19th October, 2011 considered the draft Housing Business Plan and referred the same to this and the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) to allow any comments from Scrutiny to be fed back to Cabinet.  The Scrutiny Committee (HPP) had been updated by the Head of Housing Services at its meeting on 2nd November, in regard to changes to the base model of the Plan which had been revised and incorporated the most recent investment required by Savills.  In addition, the draft Plan had been adjusted to reflect “stock sensitive” items as well as the Welsh Housing Quality Standard work which had been undertaken subsequent to the Condition Survey.  The minute of that Scrutiny Committee, which indicated that the reference from Cabinet and the Head of Housing Services’ report had been noted, were tabled as supplementary information.

 

The Director of Finance, ICT and Property was in attendance.  She explained that the Council’s financial position had improved in comparison to the previous year and that the draft Plan before Members indicated that the WHQS would be achieved in 2016/17, as had already been stated.  She referred to the update report and to the appendices attached thereto which summarised

 

  • the property type across the Vale by area
  • the Housing Investment Programme from 2012-2017 (drawing specific attention therein to the sums allocated for “general improvements” which is was anticipated would be expended upon such matters as environmental improvements but was dependent the funding available following receipt of the tenders)
  • the Capital Programme from 2007-2012 (the DFICTP drawing attention to the amount of work already undertaken in respect especially of window and door replacements and central heating and boiler renewal)
  • the revenue programme 2011-2017.

 

Inroads had, therefore been made towards achieving the WHQS and the forward programme would help to keep the DLO as a viable entity.  The Director reminded Members that the investment had been drawn up based on the 2007 survey and existing data and was, therefore, liable to change as a consequence of the tender process and/or the receipt of further information.  The details shown in respect of the projected revenue savings indicated an erosion of current balances and she confirmed that balances would be utilised prior to the need arising for prudential borrowing.  She drew attention to the fact that the Council had yet to be notified of the HRA settlement figure and that she was consequently unaware of the level of rent increase that would be recommended or the level of subsidy to be repaid to the Welsh Government.  The Plan assumed inflation plus 1% but, if that were not to be the case, the impact over the 30 years of the Plan would be significant. 

 

She then referred to paragraphs 15 – 17 of the update report which indicated the potential for additional investment.  Discussion ensued on her suggestion that this be considered in order to increase the funding available.  Whilst accepting that there was no need to be specific at this stage as to the allocation of that funding, she suggested that its utilisation for environmental improvements would assist in the process of achieving the WHQS, adding that a blueprint for environmental improvements was in fact being developed and that community groups would be engaged.  The final Business Plan would be submitted to Cabinet at its next meeting.

 

Other issues raised in the course of subsequent discussion included the concerns expressed by constituents in relation to the current review of the warden service which provided support for tenants living in, or linked to, a sheltered housing scheme.  The Director confirmed that the Head of Housing Services was currently revisiting the proposals in recognition of those concerns but referred to the need to spread the Council’s limited resources across all its tenants.  The final proposals would be a matter for future consideration.

 

The Director then outlined the processes involved in the selection of suitable contactors for the work, explaining that every effort would be made to mitigate potential risks. There would, for example, be framework contracts for each piece of work with a view to selecting 4 main contractors and that each contractor would be closely monitored.  In response to a query, the Director confirmed that the DLO would to be subject to the same constraints as private sector. 

 

Following further discussion on the above and related matters, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Cabinet decisions as contained in Minute No. C1480 be endorsed and that, having considered the update report and the reference from the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection), no further comments be made at this time.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To take account of all the information presented.

 

 

590     PENARTH LEARNING COMMUNITY PROJECT (DLD) -

 

Councillor N. Moore had submitted a Request for Consideration in respect of the above matter in order to ascertain the current position in relation to funding, urging the Committee and the Council to delay no further.  Councillor Moore accepted the Chairman’s point that the request had been somewhat overtaken by events but indicated that he had been concerned that, despite the Committee having asked for a report sometime ago, nothing had been submitted.  He referred to the fact that only Cardiff had indicated a readiness to make a capital contribution and the sum itself would remain unknown until February 2012 but was pleased to note that the consultation process had commenced and that the scheme was progressing.

 

The Head of Strategic Planning and Performance had prepared a report which outlining the background in relation to the bidding process and the grants awarded together with the fact that the discussions with other local authorities regarding future regional demand had now been concluded, thereby meeting the condition of the latest grant offer.  As Members were aware, the Penarth Learning Community was a tranche 3 scheme with a funding contribution requirement of 30% and Council funding for the scheme was included in the indicative Capital Programme.  It was noted that the total cost of the scheme had been revised to reflect a slight reduction in the size of the Special School and residential provision.  A new funding profile was consequently being developed to reflect the reduced costs of the scheme as well as funding contributions from other local authorities which would be factored into a revised Schools Investment Programme which would also incorporate revised investment priorities in the light of reduced capital funding.  The current position regarding the cost and funding of the Penarth Learning Community was appended to the report as outlined below:

 

  • the cost of the feasibility and development work was £127k. less than estimated
  • the original estimated cost of the scheme was £57m. which was later reduced following a revision of pupil numbers and a process of value engineering to £49m.
  • capital receipts of approximately £4m. were assumed to arise from the disposal of various sites although it was noted that there was a risk that those receipts would not be realised and that further prudential borrowing might need to be undertaken
  • of the local authorities, Cardiff was the only Council prepared to make a capital contribution although that could not be confirmed until Cardiff’s Capital Programme was approved in February 2012.  Newport had indicated a preference to pay a capital charge through revenue payments, the details of which were subject to ongoing discussion. 

The process and timescales relating to the statutory process in relation to Penarth Learning Community were appended to the report, as was the statutory consultation document. Members were informed that if no objections were received, the length of the statutory process would be much reduced but that, if just one objection were received, the matter would be referred to the Welsh Government for determination which could be a lengthy process.

 

In response to Councillor Moore’s comment regarding the contribution from Cardiff, the Head of Service stated that a commitment had been given at officer level to fund £1.5m.  Should Cardiff County not commit to that sum in the new Capital Programme, this Council would commence charging a capital contribution via revenue from next year.  As indicated above, Newport would be required to make a revenue contribution.  The Chairman summed up the situation by stating that if the capital sums were not forthcoming the additional revenue contributions would more than make up for the prudential borrowing.  Again, and as indicated above, the Head of Service drew attention to the potential risk that £4m. would not be realised from capital receipts.  Discussion ensued in particular to the issues relating to the Dinas Powys site.  Councillor Hatton also raised the issue of access to St. Cyres school in Penarth and was asked by the Chairman to refer those concerns to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) since they were not relevant to the discussions in hand.  As regards the matter raised concerning the likely timescale for implementation, the Head of Service indicated that she was hopeful of a response from the Welsh Government, were any objections to be received, in the summer of 2012.  She also confirmed that should the £4m. capital receipts not be realised funding would be utilised from the School Investment Strategy. 

 

In conclusion, the Director of Learning and Development indicated that regular reports on progress would be reported to this Committee as the lead committee for the financial aspects of the scheme and expressed his appreciation to the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance for her achievements to date. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position in relation to the Penarth Learning Community as contained within the report and the timescale of the associated statutory process be noted. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the latest position regarding the funding for Penarth Learning Community and the statutory process to be followed.