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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 26th June, 2012.

 

Present:  Councillor M.R. Wilson (Chairman); Councillors J.C. Bird, Mrs. P. Drake, K.J. Geary, H.C. Hamilton, K. Hatton, P. King, R.A. Penrose and G. Roberts.

 

Also present:  Councillors C.P. Franks and N. Moore.

 

           

76        INTRODUCTIONS -

 

The Chairman welcomed all Members present to the first meeting of this Committee in the current municipal year and indicated that the terms of reference of the Committee had been tabled for their information.  Those Members and officers present introduced themselves.

 

 

77        APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor H.J.W. James.

 

 

78        APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN -

 

RESOLVED – THAT Councillor Mrs. P. Drake be appointed Vice-Chairman for the ensuing municipal year.

 

 

79        MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 24th April, 2012 be noted and signed by the Chairman.

 

 

80        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

The following Members declared interests as shown below in respect of Agenda Item No.6, The Vale of Glamorgan School Investment Strategy (SIP), in respect of their governorships of various schools within the Vale should reference be made to those schools during the course of the consideration of the SIP:

 

Councillor Mrs. P. Drake

Gladstone and Holton

Councillor K. Geary

Eagleswell

Councillor H.C. Hamilton

Oakfield and St. Barucs

Councillor K. Hatton

Murch

Councillor G. Roberts

St. Cyres

 

No reference to any of the above schools was made during consideration of the SIP.

 

 

81        TIMETABLE OF MEETINGS MAY 2012 – MAY 2013 –

 

Councillor C.P. Franks had called-in Cabinet Minute No. C1728 in relation to the above for a variety of reasons, some of which had been rejected by the Chairman.  The Chairman had, however, decided to accept the following reason for the request, namely 'to consider if the proposed change of venue and time of Cabinet is adequate'.  Councillor Franks was invited to the table and asked to explain the rationale behind his reason for the call-in.  Councillor Franks indicated that whilst he welcomed the concept of Cabinet meetings moving around the Vale there were issues that he would like explained.  He referred to the intended programme of three Cabinet meetings being held outside of Barry, stating that he considered that to be limited and that there was scope for that to be increased.  He asked whether holding a Cabinet meeting outside of the Civic Offices in the evening would assist in engaging the public.  He also referred to the issue of whether or not local interest issues would be placed on the agenda for Cabinet depending on the venue. 

 

There being no further comment in relation to the above or contrary view expressed in relation to the decision of Cabinet, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the above comments be noted and the decision of Cabinet, therefore, endorsed.

 

 

82        THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN SCHOOL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME (2012/13 TO 2019/20) (CX) –

 

At the request of the Leader the Chairman of the Committee had agreed that the Vale of Glamorgan School Investment Programme document be discussed prior to Cabinet making a response with regard to the submission of the required documentation relating to the Welsh Medium school to the Welsh Government before September 2012.  The attached was for consideration by the Corporate Resources Committee.

 

Officers had met with the Welsh Government in May 2012 to discuss the next steps in progressing the revised Band A Projects within the 21st Century Schools Programme.  Following that meeting, an assessment of the four projects within Band A had been carried out.  The highest priority identified had been the bringing forward of the next phase at Ysgol Dewi Sant in Llantwit Major.  Prior to its opening, pupil numbers at Ysgol Dewi Sant had been difficult to predict with accuracy and the Council had therefore assumed a conservative level of parental demand.  Parental demand for Welsh medium education in the Llantwit Major area was, however, increasing more rapidly than initial estimates and the next phase of the development was required earlier than originally planned to accommodate those additional children.  It was noted that feasibility studies would be carried out on the remaining schemes to determine if any of those could also be brought forward and a report would be submitted to this Committee detailing the outcome.  Approval would therefore be sought for the Chief Executive to approve the submission of the business justification case to the Welsh Government before September 2012.

 

In response to a question in relation to the knock on effect of the proposal to expand Ysgol Dewi Sant on Welsh medium education in Cowbridge and English medium education in Llantwit Major, the School Organisation and Access Manager responded that within the Llantwit Major area (including St. Athan and Wick) there were five English medium schools, that the pupil numbers at Ysgol Dewi Sant were in fact quite small and the effect on the English medium would therefore be spread wide.  Due to increasing demand for Welsh medium education reception applications at Ysgol Iolo Morgannwg have remained at a high level.

 

In response to a further question in relation to Asset Renewal, he confirmed that, as the 21st Century Schools Programme only addressed the needs of a limited number of schools, there would not be an appreciable reduction in the required Asset Renewal budget in the medium or long term, although there could be a reduction in the very long term arising from the remodelling of schools.

 

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked the officer for presenting the report together with all the officers involved in the preparation of the School Investment Programme.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be requested to authorise the Chief Executive / Managing Director to approve the submission of a business justification case for the completion of the next phase of Ysgol Dewi Sant by September 2012 to release Welsh Government Capital funding for this revised Band A project in consultation with the Leader and the relevant Cabinet Member.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To progress the submission of the business justification case.

 

 

83        INTERIM MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL PLAN 2012/13 TO 2016/17 AND 2013/14 BUDGET PROCESS (DFICTP) –

 

At the request of the Leader the Chairman of the Committee had agreed that the Interim Medium Term Financial Plan and Budget Process be discussed prior to Cabinet making a decision.  The attached was for consideration by the Corporate Resources Committee.

 

The purpose of the Medium Term Financial Plan was to link with the Council's strategic planning process with the budget process and to ensure consistency between them.  It was a mechanism that attempted to match future predicted resources and expenditure, identify potential shortfalls and provide the financial framework for the next three to five years and a budget strategy for the next financial year.  The draft Plan as appended to the report constituted an interim plan as it did not attempt to provide the financial framework which would be developed through a full Budget Review to be undertaken prior to the development of the Final Budget Proposals 2013/14.  The Plan formed an integral part of the Council’s corporate framework and linked with the Council’s Corporate Plan.

 

The Interim Plan attempted to

 

  • identify the main financial implications resulting from the increased pressure falling upon Council services, including pay and price inflation, legislative and demographic changes
  • estimate the financial resources that would be available to the Council to meet those demands
  • match the predicted expenditure and resources and provide the framework to undertake a Budget Review whilst setting out the Budget Process for the next financial year.

The Plan, which contained an executive summary on Pages 2 - 6, was appended to the report.  Members noted that funding levels for 2013/14 to 2014/15 were based upon indicative figures received from Welsh Government.  The accuracy of those figures could not therefore be guaranteed and Members were asked to note that any changes to those figures could have a significant financial impact.  Initial projections showing a projected cumulative revenue shortfall to 2016/17 of almost £19.6m. were amplified in Paragraph 8 of the report.  It was also noted that there would inevitably be additional cost pressures arising between the present and 2016/17.  Although savings through efficiencies would continue to remain a major expectation of future budgets, it was unlikely that the Council would seek to or be able to fund all cost pressures.  The key outcome from the Budget Review would, therefore, be to identify the relative priorities between different services given the financial challenges which lay ahead. 

 

From a Capital Programme perspective, the expected decrease in the Council's General Funding Allocation in 2013/14 and specific capital grants from the Welsh Government from 2013/14 onwards, coupled with limited capital receipts, gave the Council little room to manoeuvre in progressing its priorities in that area.  As such, the Council would look to mitigate that situation insofar as it was able by reappraising all schemes and looking to progress only those which were deemed to be a key corporate priority whilst also seeking to gain assurance that such schemes were delivered on time and within budget.

 

As regards to the 2013/14 Budget Process, it was noted that the outcome of the Budget Review would inform the 2013/14 Final Revenue Budget Proposals to be reported to Cabinet and Council in February / March 2013.  In order to establish a baseline, services were required to prepare Initial Revenue Budgets for next year based on the cost of providing the current level of service together with any approved policy decisions and including any net savings target.  The cost of pay increases and pay awards should be included therein. 

 

Paragraph 13 of the report detailed the steps required to be taken should increases to budgets be approved during the course of the financial year which could subsequently restrict the freedom of the Council to allocate its resources to priorities during the following budget cycle.  It was noted that the Housing Revenue Account was ringfenced insomuch as all expenditure on the service had to be financed from income generated.  A major determinate in assessing the rent charges was the level of subsidy granted by the Welsh Government which was not normally released until December of each year.

 

Having regard to the above, it was proposed that Directors be instructed to prepare initial Revenue Budgets for 2013/14 in accordance with the timetable agreed by the Director of Resources, preparation to be on the basis laid out in Paragraph 15 of the report.

 

As regards Capital Schemes, Directors were responsible for co-ordinating formal capital bids for their services ensuring that only the highest priority bids were submitted in the approved format.  To that end, the principles of sustainable development and better carbon management would be incorporated and evaluated.  It was expected that the revenue costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective services and, as such, no revenue bids were initially to be made.  It was noted, however, that services might still be asked to identify and prioritise any burgeoning cost pressures for consideration as part of the Budget Review.

 

Reference was also made within the report to the consultation that would be undertaken with the Scrutiny Committees in respect of the budget process and the timetable for the same was set out in paragraph 20. 

 

In response to a question, the Head of Financial Services confirmed that departments had been given targets to meet and that, as referred to in paragraph 21, the Council’s programme for efficiency and other savings was a formal arrangement.  He referred also to the work of the Budget Task and Finish Group which had looked at ways of achieving efficiency savings over the next three years.  Within the Plan, reference was made to the Welfare Reform Act and a number of significant issues associated with welfare reforms which would impact upon the Council and its services.  Based upon preliminary work undertaken by the Welsh Local Government Association, it had been assessed that the potential costs to the Council of welfare reform could be as much as £2.4m. per annum.  That amount had been shown as a cost pressure with phasing commencing over three years with effect from 2014/15.  Other issues raised during the course of subsequent discussion included consideration as to the Council’s corporate aspirations being tailored to meet the Council’s financial situation.  The Head of Performance and Development confirmed at this juncture that a review of the Corporate Plan would be undertaken in tandem with the budgetary process.  Members agreed that the outlook presented huge financial challenges.  The Head of Financial Services indicated how council tax gearing worked and explained that if the Council wished to increase its expenditure, it would have to increase income.  As grant was fixed, a 1% increase in spending would need a 4% increase in council tax.  In response to a comment, he confirmed that partnership working was another means of unlocking additional resources.  When asked whether he could quantify any of the areas in relation to welfare reform that could be affected, the Head of Financial Services indicated that he could in the case of some but not others.  He continued by stating that there were a considerable number of possible implications relating specifically to housing and social services and that it was very difficult to predict at this time what they might be.  He concluded by stating that more accurate figures and detailed information were required and that the Welsh Government would be urged to fund the additional burdens placed upon the Council through this legislation.  Members also felt that it might be easier to consider the implications of the financial pressures if they were put into the context of departmental budgets.  The Head of Financial Services considered that, where appropriate, this information could be referred to.  Members made no comment on the budget process itself and timetable for 2013/14 or the proposals for undertaken a Budget Review. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the above comments be referred to Cabinet on 9th July, 2012.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To inform Cabinet of the views of the Committee.

 

 

84        REVENUE MONITORING – 1ST TO 30TH APRIL, 2012 (DFICTP) -

 

The Head of Financial Services notified Members of the Committee that Revenue Monitoring reports were presented on a monthly basis and that Corporate Resources received the details in respect of all services.  He asked that if Members had service specific queries that they direct them to the appropriate service specific Committee.

 

The projected outturn for 2012/13 was for a balanced Revenue Budget as what that in respect of Housing Revenue Account.  The Head of Service indicated that it was very early in the current financial year but already issues in relation to Social Services had been identified, details pertaining to which were contained in paragraphs 6 - 8 of the report. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the Council's 2012/13 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the projected revenue outturn for 2012/13.

 

 

85        CAPITAL MONITORING – 1ST TO 30TH APRIL, 2012 (DFICTP) –

 

The Head of Service indicated that Capital Monitoring reports were presented to this Committee on a monthly basis and, as with revenue, Corporate Resources received details across all services.  As regards Capital Monitoring, any Members with service specific queries were requested to notify the Head of Service in advance of the meeting in order that the necessary information could be obtained.  Particular reference was drawn to the Alexandra Gardens Community Centre re-build where the scheme had been re-worked.  It was now anticipated that the scheme could be delivered for the £400,150 and it had been requested that the budget be reduced accordingly.  In order to provide a small contingency sum on the scheme, it had also bee requested, as part of the Closing Down report, that available slippage on the 2011/12 capital demolition budget be added to the £400,150.

 

RECOMMENDED – THAT the position with regard to the Council’s 2012/13 Capital Programme be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow schemes to proceed this financial year.

 

 

86        COMMITTEE FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME (DLPPHS) –

 

The Council's Constitution required Scrutiny Committees to determine their individual work programmes for each financial year which would also inform the Annual Report.  The Annual Report would be presented to all Scrutiny Committees for approval and reported to Full Council in the autumn. 

 

The purpose of the Forward Work Programme was to help to ensure non-Executive Councillors achieved organisation and focus in the undertaking of enquiries by the Scrutiny process and to support and challenge the Council's decision-making process and to monitor and review progress in relation to the Council's Performance Management Framework.  Paragraph 4 of the report detailed the monitoring and evaluation role of all Scrutiny Committees.  Paragraph 5 outlined the specific reports which had either been requested by the Scrutiny Committee or would be reported as and when available in addition to the monitoring and evaluation role of this Committee in respect of certain topics. 

 

The Scrutiny Committee was also requested to propose a topic for potential review which would be suitable for a Task and Finish exercise to be undertaken by a small group of Members and officers.  Cross-party support was received for the following topic “Welfare Reform and the Implications of it to the Council”.  Members agreed that, were the aforementioned topic to be selected by the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group, a politically balanced Task and Finish Group of 6 should be established.  Membership would consist of the following Members: Councillors K.J. Geary, H.C. Hamilton, K. Hatton, G.H. Roberts, M.R. Wilson and either J.C. Bird or H.J.W. James.  Councillor Bird undertook to notify Democratic Services of the Conservative appointee.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the work programme for the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for 2012/13 be confirmed as detailed in paragraph 4 - 6 of the report.

 

(2)       T H A T the priority topic for review to be submitted to the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group for consideration and determination be “Welfare Reform and the Implications of it to the Council”.

 

 

87        PROPOSALS FOR A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT BILL – CONSULTATION RESPONSE (CMT) –

 

At the request of the Leader the Chairman of the Committee had agreed that the Sustainable Development Bill consultation document be discussed prior to Cabinet making a response, bearing in mind the consultation period was due to end on 18th July 2012.  The attached was for consideration by the Corporate Resources Committee.

 

The Welsh Government (WG) had issued a consultation document on proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill which set out the WG’s proposals to develop and strengthen the approach to sustainable development in Wales.  Also appended to the report was a draft consultation response which welcomed the proposals from WG to introduce legislation strengthening the approach to sustainable development but which also outlined some reservations.  In addition to the creation of a new sustainable development body, the proposals also included a scrutiny function for the Auditor General for Wales.  The response expressed concern that any new requirements did not lead to an overly bureaucratic process and that the legislation would not be too prescriptive, the view being taken that the outcome must be a framework which supported and encouraged organisations to embed sustainable development and not create a compliance culture which stifled innovation and directed resources away from delivering real outcomes.

 

The Head of Performance and Development emphasised that this Council took sustainable development very seriously, quoting as an example the fact that project managers were required to carry out a sustainable development assessment of all projects.  The Council also had a Sustainable Development Working Group and reports on current developments and future proposals were made to this Committee on a six monthly basis. 

 

Members took the view that since sustainability impacted upon every action undertaken by the Council, it should be mainstreamed.  There was accordingly a discussion about whether it was appropriate to have two separate bodies both responsible for separate aspects of sustainability.  Discussion also ensued as to the inclusion of a heading entitled “Sustainability” in Council reports in order, in part, to raise its profile.  The Leader was invited to comment at this juncture, whereupon he indicated that this issue had been debated by the previous administration – the outcome of which had been to expand the categories under “Resource Implications” to include “Climate Change, if appropriate”.  The Leader also referred to a report submitted some years ago to this Committee which had updated Members on progress in implementing sustainable development within the Council and sought agreement on priorities for the future.  Members requested that a copy of that report be circulated to them for information.  The Head of Service again stated that six monthly reports were submitted to this Committee as to the current position.

 

In conclusion, Members reiterated the need for the profile of sustainability to be enhanced not just within the Council but with external stakeholders, proposing that Cabinet consider ways in which to promote the same.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report referred to above be circulated to all Members of the Committee for information.

 

(2)       T H A T it be noted that the latest sustainable development update would be submitted to this Committee for consideration.

 

(3)       T H A T the views of this Committee on the proposed Bill be referred to Cabinet on 9th July 2012 for consideration prior to the end of the consultation period on 16th July.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       For information.

 

(2)       For consideration.

 

(3)       To inform Cabinet of the views of this Committee.

 

 

88        LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOUNDARY COMMISSION FOR WALES –

 

At the request of the Leader the Chairman of the Committee had agreed that the Electoral Reviews: Council Size Policy consultation document be discussed prior to Cabinet making a response, bearing in mind the consultation period was due to end on 16th July 2012.  The attached was for consideration by the Corporate Resources Committee.

 

The aforementioned consultation paper, together with a summary response from the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), had been circulated to all Members of the Committee for consideration.  The consultation paper set out the Commission’s preliminary view and approach as to how it believed Council size should be determined, based on its experience, expertise and knowledge of local government.  The Commission proposed that Authorities should be grouped into the following four categories:

  • Rural – authorities with a predominantly rural composition
  • Urban – the most heavily populated areas
  • Valley – populated areas confined by unique physical environment
  • Other – authorities which contained a mixture of rural and urban characteristics.

It was noted that the Vale of Glamorgan had been allotted the category of “Other” and that the proposed number of Councillors showed an increase of four over the present membership (albeit this figure, i.e. 51, was, in turn subject to a potential further difference of plus or minus three).  Attention was drawn to the fact at this juncture that, in February 2011, draft proposals for this Council set out in a Boundary Commission report proposed a reduction in the number of Members by one.  Members were of the opinion that the consultation paper provided very little detail as to the rationale or factors taken into account by the Commission as, indeed, was the WLGA.  During the course of further discussion it was suggested that the Commission should adopt a more rational approach taking account, inter alia, of factors such as deprivation and size of communities within each Council boundary. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be notified that this Committee would wish the Commission to be informed that, prior to developing these or any further proposals, an evaluation process which was accountable, sustainable and credible should be developed in order that any future proposals could be properly evaluated.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To inform Cabinet of the Committee’s viewpoint.