SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)
Minutes of an extraordinary meeting held on 19th December, 2012.
Present: Councillor R.L. Traherne (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Vice-Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. P. Drake, A.G. Powell and C.J. Williams.
Also present: Councillor L. Burnett.
659 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -
These were received from Councillors E. Hacker and P.G. King.
660 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
661 WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION DOCUMENT: VIBRANT AND VIABLE PLACES – A NEW REGENERATION FRAMEWORK –
The meeting had been called to consider the document prior to the Council submission to WG by 14th January 2013. Tabled at the meeting was supplementary information in the form of a reference from the Cabinet who had considered the matter at its meeting on 17th December 2012 and referred the same to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.
Mr. Dave Williams, Principal Regeneration Officer, presented the report stating that the purpose of the report was to advise on the Welsh Government consultation document and to consider responses to the set of questions contained in the consultation document. The Welsh Government consultation document was attached at Appendix 1 and had been the result of a policy review of approaches to regeneration which had been instigated by the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage in February 2012. The closing date for responses to the Welsh Government was 14th January 2013. The report also highlighted that since the date of issue on 22nd October 2012, there had been a number of opportunities for the Council to contribute to the consultation at, for example, the Welsh Local Government Association Regeneration Cabinet Members’ event, the National Regeneration Summit and at various regional stakeholder events during December 2012. In terms of context, the current and future Welsh Government area-based programmes with regeneration implications for the Vale of Glamorgan included:
- Communities First (2012-2015): the Council has been awarded revenue funding of £1.4 million over the programme period for a cluster area in Barry based on parts of Castleland, Cadoc, Gibbonsdown, Buttrills and Court Wards. This had been the subject of a report to Cabinet on 3rd December 2012.
- Barry Regeneration Area (2010-2014): the Barry Regeneration Area programme was launched by the Welsh Government in March 2010. A total of £9.8m of Welsh Government investment had been allocated to the programme, which was initially intended to run for three years (April 2010 - March 2013 inclusive). However, following the spending review by the United Kingdom Government, this allocation had been re-profiled over four years. The Cabinet had considered an update report on the Barry Regeneration Area programme and the Welsh Government’s Ministerial review of approaches to regeneration on 23rd July 2012 (C1780 refers).
- Flying Start (2012-2015): the Council had been awarded capital funding of up to £663,985 over the programme period to provide suitable premises in Barry from which Flying Start services will be delivered. The Council as lead body has also been awarded Flying Start revenue funding of £1.4m for 2012/13.
- Housing-led regeneration: Castleland Renewal Area (2010-2022) covered parts of Castleland, Court and Buttrills Wards. To date £2.8m has been invested in the residential face-lift programme to assist the regeneration of private sector housing in the area. In terms of public sector housing the Council's Housing Improvement Programme (2012-2017) was investing £82m in Council properties to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.
- Rural Development Plan (2014-2020): Creative Rural Communities was in the process of delivering a programme totalling £3.8m as part of the second phase of the 2007-2013 Rural Development Plan for Wales. Arrangements for the implementation of the new European Funded Programmes for Wales (2014-2020) were also currently being considered. A public consultation on the future Rural Development Plan for Wales was likely to begin during February/March 2013 with the aim of submitting an initial Rural Development Plan for Wales to the European Commission before next summer.
- Structural Funds (2014-2020): there was limited flexibility in the current European Union Structural Fund Programmes (European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund) for funding to support projects based in non-convergence areas such as the Vale of Glamorgan. Members noted that a public consultation on the new Structural Fund Programmes for the period 2014-2020 was likely to begin during January 2013. The report also stated that non-convergence areas would continue to lobby for more flexibility to allow for strategic investment into areas which adjoined the West Wales and the Valleys convergence area on the basis that it was beneficial to make connections at a higher geographic level between areas with development potential and areas of need.
- St Athan - Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone: launched by the Welsh Government in April 2012, the Enterprise Zone was focused on the aerospace sector a key sector in the Welsh Government's commitment to creating jobs and sustainable growth. The Welsh Government was offering specific incentives to attract new business such as access to finance, diverse support packages, international trade advice, help with finding a location, workforce and skills development plus links with industry networks.
- Cardiff Airport Task Force: set up by the First Minister in June 2012 the Task Force aimed to address how the competitive position of Cardiff Airport could be improved through collaboration between its owners, the Welsh Government and the wider public sector and business community.
- Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan (2012-2022): the plan set out the Welsh Government’s capital spending on key infrastructure priorities, such as Enterprise Zones, housing and transport networks, of £3.5bn through to 2014/15 and around £15bn over the next decade.
- South East Wales City Region: the Welsh Government's Business Minister was considering the recommendations of a report issued in July 2012 by the City Regions Task and Finish Group. The report recommended that a City Region be recognised in South East Wales on the basis of existing patterns of movement and the potential for increased interconnectivity, together with the tradition of both social and economic interdependence.
The report highlighted that under relevant issues and options the key issue for the Cabinet would be to consider the proposal by the Welsh Government to bring a regional approach to the governance arrangements for delivering key regeneration projects and programmes. The consultation document proposed three regions for Wales, which were consistent with the Welsh Government’s regional collaborative areas for public service delivery, namely: North Region, South East Region and South West and Mid Region. For the Vale of Glamorgan the proposed “collaborative footprint” was the South East Region which aligned with the City Region concept and was coterminous with nine other local authorities, i.e. Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Newport and Monmouthshire. At national level it was proposed to enhance the National Regeneration Panel by converting it into a full and formal Ministerial Advisory Group on Regeneration. This would provide the Minister with advice and challenge on policy and would also have a role in overseeing the proposed Regional Regeneration Boards. The consultation document proposes that a shadow Regional Regeneration Board would be established in early 2013/14 to collate evidence and map existing services, funding, opportunities and need.
The officer advised that there was an argument for regional governance for delivering key regeneration projects and programmes as it built on the Welsh Government collaborative agenda for public services. However, in responding it had been considered relevant to refer to the fact that the setting up of a regional structure for regeneration should seek to avoid complicated structures and to ensure that there was no duplication in collaboration in terms of existing and emerging Welsh Government and local government structures. For example the Welsh Government's review of land-use planning had highlighted the need for a statutory framework for strategic regional planning for South East Wales.
The Principal Regeneration Officer also highlighted that there was a need to bring order to all the existing and proposed arrangements so that change would be undertaken in a way that could work. The key questions in the consultation document were detailed at paragraph 10 of the report as below:
- What is your feedback on lessons learnt from delivery to date?
- Should other national outcomes or principles be considered?
- What more can be done to achieve greater coherence and cross cutting action across Welsh Government departments?
- Do you agree with the national, regional and local approach set out?
- Do you have any other comments on our proposals for how we will target and direct our funding?
- We want to ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of regeneration activities; will the approach set out achieve this?
In light of paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 in the report and the work around the St Athan - Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone, the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan, the South East Wales City Region and the developing work around the Planning Bill the proposed responses to the key questions could be found at Appendix 2 to the report.
In presenting the report to the Committee the Principal Regeneration Officer advised that in summary the following points would be pertinent:
- “Greater clarity was required from the Welsh Government in relation to what the key national and regional priorities were and how these linked with emerging local priorities, thus providing a meaningful framework within which regional and local regeneration initiatives could be progressed.
- At the time of writing details were awaited on City Regions and their associated governance arrangements and whether the commitment to equal involvement was applied. It was hoped that both the Regional Regeneration Board and City Region governance arrangements would build on existing arrangements rather than create new structures with the associated risks of duplication, competition and silo working.
- The Vale of Glamorgan was a non-convergence area and there was a risk that areas of disadvantage, particularly in Barry, would miss out should the regional formula be skewed to match fund the new West Wales and the Valleys convergence area European Funded Programmes.
- Notwithstanding the above, continued regeneration intervention in the Vale of Glamorgan could build upon and add value to several successful examples of intervention such as successful regeneration programmes in the rural Vale of Glamorgan and Barry, as well as recent policy interventions such as the Enterprise Zone, the Airport Task Force and the announcement of a Communities First Cluster. In addition, there was ongoing housing renewal work and progress being made on regeneration at Barry Island. Furthermore, the emphasis in the consultation document to the role of coastal towns and town centres was welcomed, especially given that early in 2013 the Council would seek to progress work on a Destination Action Plan and seek to adopt a Town Centres Framework. It was therefore essential that momentum gained through the Barry Regeneration Area and other associated initiatives was retained and built upon.
- Councils throughout Wales would need support, both financial and human, from the Welsh Government to adopt monitoring and evaluation processes. Until this was achieved it would be difficult to determine whether the Welsh Government initiatives were achieving their intended purpose and whether value for money was being achieved.”
Members, in considering the report, raised concerns as to the possible loss of Barry as a regeneration area. Although they noted the considerable number of good things that had been established within the Barry area, they raised the importance of attaching such good work to regional connections. They were also keen to ensure that the Regeneration Area Board remained in existence to assist in the future. The Chairman read out the contents of a letter received from Councillor R.J. Bertin (who had been unable to attend the meeting) that had also been tabled at the meeting who also raised concern at the possibility that Barry could “lose out”. The Chairman also queried whether funds would remain for rural regeneration in the Vale with the Operational Manager advising that the Department / Council would lobby hard but that no clear indication had been given as yet. Members were keen to ensure how local needs would be met but again the officer stated that this would depend on who would be involved at regional level in making the decisions. It was noted that the Minister was scheduled to make an announcement in February 2013 on a way forward. The Committee was also informed that the Minister for Business had recently announced the setting up of small task and finish groups to look at developing actions to support city regions.
In considering the infrastructure of the area the Cabinet Member was asked if there was any news on infrastructure priorities set out in the Welsh Government’s Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan. It was agreed that the details of the amount for the Vale should be forwarded to Members as soon as available.
In considering the report Members were concerned at the possible loss of Barry as a regeneration area. However, it was felt that there was little point in objecting to the regional approach to regeneration as the Welsh Government was clearly of a view that this was the way forward in many policy areas. It was agreed that the Council's submission to the Welsh Government as an Appendix 2 was well focussed and positive, however, the final two bullet points in response to Question 5 were perhaps too optimistic about Barry. It was also felt that the Welsh Government might consider that Barry did not require future regeneration funding.
Having fully considered the report it was
RECOMMENDED - T H A T Cabinet be requested to amend the Council's response to Question 5 by altering the final two bullet points as, whilst the points made were accurate, the impression presented is of a town that is doing so well that it may not need any more assistance in terms of regeneration funding.
Reason for recommendation
To ensure that Barry benefits from future regeneration funding.