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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 16th May, 2013.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. P. Drake, E. Hacker, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, P. King, A.G. Powell and C.J. Williams.

 

Also present: Councillors L. Burnett and N. Moore.

 

 

11        APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor G.A. Cox.

 

 

12        APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN –

 

AGREED – T H A T Councillor E. Hacker be appointed Vice-Chairman for the current municipal year.

 

 

13        MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th April, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

14        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

15        CLOSURE OF BARRY BIKE CENTRE (DDS) –

 

The Chairman, with the permission of the Committee, agreed to consider the request as the first item of business in recognition of the attendance of the public at the meeting.

 

Prior to inviting Councillor R.J. Bertin to present his Request for Consideration the Chairman advised all present that having received legal advice it would not be appropriate to discuss associated personnel issues in relation to the report at the meeting by anyone.  This was due to the fact that the personnel issues were not within the Committee’s terms of reference to deal with and were Human Resources matters. The Chairman stated that there was a risk that the proper due process could be compromised if such discussions were to take place and that the Committee should not discuss any issues that could compromise any early retirement / redundancy or appeals processes.

 

On being invited to present his request, Councillor Bertin stated that he wished the Scrutiny Committee to discuss fully the reasons for the closure of the Barry Bike Centre and, in particular, to consider if other sources of funding had or could be considered in order to keep it open.  He queried whether the service could be provided under Barry Regeneration funding, other funding or whether another organisation could be approached to run the service as the bike repair facility had been an important service to the community of Gibbonsdown and Court as well as for the rest of Barry. Cllr Bertin also raised concern as to the interpretation that the facility had been a loss maker. 

 

The Operational Manager for Countryside and Economic Projects advised that until mid 2012 the employment training unit had been managed by the former Lifelong Learning Directorate and although it had been set up to be cost neutral, based on expected income at that time a £200k. annual deficit was forecast.  The management of the unit was subsequently passed to the Directorate of Development Services and faced with such a deficit an immediate review was initiated. 

 

By way of background the Operational Manager stated that the unit encompassed a bike repair facility which had been established to provide work experience opportunities in previous programmes but had continued to operate after these programmes had ended.  It also contributed no outcomes to the work programme and was operating at very substantial losses.  The  unit was then restructured, merged with the Business Support Team and refocused towards real employment outcomes for the long term unemployed clients.  The cycle shop was therefore closed as it did not achieve accredited training outcomes and was running at a substantial deficit.  The report highlighted that the cycle shop provided little training and no formally accredited provision and its role had been to provide work experience opportunities under previous programmes.  Therefore, the Operational Manager could not identify any source of training funds to continue subsidising such a facility.  With regard to the use of Barry Regeneration Area funds, he stated that these were capital receipts and the cycle facility required revenue support.  The Communities First Delivery Plan had also been agreed and funded until 2015 which did not have provision for such type of activity under any of its programmes.  Coupled with this a small number of people had benefited from the heavily subsidised cycle repair service and as such, the service was in effect a subsidised service that could undermine the position of other local businesses. 

 

The Operational Manager informed Committee that he could find no justification to recommend supporting one narrow commercial sector, cycle repair in isolation, at the cost of numerous commercial suppliers of this type of service which were already in existence and similarly, the job security of their employees. In conclusion, he stated that it was important to question whether the Council would subsidise the repair of cycles and the sale of second hand cycles when there were numerous private suppliers servicing Barry which were easily accessible. 

 

Following requests from members of the public to speak on the matter, the Chairman restated the legal advice for those present, advising that it would not be appropriate for the Scrutiny Committee to discuss associated personnel issues at the meeting.  Human Resources issues were not within the Committee’s terms of reference and the Council had a procedure for such matters that needed to be followed.  Mr Mayor had also been advised of his pecuniary interest and was not present at the meeting.

 

Mr. Jason Giles, a local resident, stated that he had attended a course at the bike shop some time ago where he received training on cycle maintenance.  Following his time at the bike shop he then went on to work for a firm called Peddle Power and in his words “it basically opened up everything for him.”  The project, he said, gave him confidence which helped him to get back into the workforce.

 

Mr. P. Carter stated that, in his opinion, the facility had provided training opportunities and, that one student had obtained a qualification and subsequent employment.  In referring to the deficit as described above he questioned the usage of the facility and in particular that he had been aware that one of the rooms at the premises had been hired out but no charges or invoices had ever been issued.  In his view the training programme had provided opportunities for people to enhance their skills and knowledge and that he had evidence that it had been a successful programme. 

 

In response the Operational Manager advised that with the closure of the site and the potential £200,000 deficit that would be released, the Council could actually offer more services to people within the Vale of Glamorgan as opposed to one or two at the bike shop.  It was clearly a case of the bike shop not being viable and the Council not being in a position to run a retail service. 

 

Some Members considered that the facility that had been offered had  assisted in helping the community and that further information as to the work undertaken at the premises should be sought, in particular how many bikes had been repaired.  In response the Operational Manager stated that approx 2 bikes a week had been repaired and in relation to a £40,000 deficit this would equate to £400 a bike which was not cost effective and together with the on-costs for the premises which had all been taken into account i.e. heating, lighting, etc.  and the Council could not be seen to be subsidising a business.

 

The Cabinet Member, with permission to speak, advised that the facility had cost a considerable amount of money and difficult decisions had to be made.  There were a number of organisations that provided similar services and she referred to another organisation which itself had to close its bike repair shop because it wasn’t financially viable.  The question that needed to be addressed was “was the Council the right place to provide such a service” the service was now not fit for purpose as the scheme was no longer the same scheme as the one that had been established. 

 

Two Members of the Committee considered that the Council should seek further funding opportunities to provide cycle repair facilities as it was an important service for the community in their opinion.  However, the general consensus of the Committee was that the bike shop had not been fit for purpose and that the original intention of the scheme although well meaning, was not now operating as intended.  It was contributing no outcome to the work programme and was operating at a very substantial loss.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

The Council should not be subsidising a repair business that was not fit for purpose.

 

 

16        WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON COMMON AGRICULTLURAL POLICY REFORM 2014-2020: A VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL RESPONSE (REF) –

 

The Principal Rural Regeneration Officer advised that the purpose of the report had been to inform Cabinet of the Welsh Government consultation on Common Agricultural policy (CAP) reform 2014-2020 and to seek agreement on a response to the consultation.  The document was a situational analysis of rural Wales and could be accessed online via the links under background papers as detailed in the report and copies were also available in the Members’ Room. 

 

The proposed response to the consultation document was attached at Appendix 3 to the report.  The officer advised that in essence it aimed to

 

·         put a case forward for the ongoing inclusion of the rural Vale in the next RDP (2014-20)

·         argue the case for the retention of the delivery and administration of RDP at a local level in the Vale.  This would maintain momentum, community involvement and prevent a loss of knowledge that has been built up over the past 10 years

·         emphasise the benefits of Local Government involvement in the RDP

·         comment on thematic priorities for the next programme.

 

Although the timescale for the next Rural Development Plan had yet to be confirmed, the consultation would inform future delivery models along with schematic and geographical targeting of any future resources.  Members were informed that the Vale of Glamorgan Rural Partnership had submitted its own response to the consultation document with key multi sector partners also   being encouraged to submit responses.  

 

Members congratulated the officer on such a comprehensive report and response but sought clarification as to how the Scrutiny Committee could influence the views further, following which it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)  T H A T the Chairman, on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee, writes to the relevant Assembly Member in support of the Council’s response to the document.

 

(2)   T H A T the report and the response be noted and the officer congratulated on such a comprehensive document. 

 

 

17        TASK AND FINISH ACTIVITIES FOR 2013/14 (HDS) –

 

As part of their work programmes all Scrutiny Committees were being requested to endorse the process for topics for review and to make suggestions for reviews which would then be considered by the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen group for the forthcoming municipal year.  The Democratic and Scrutiny Officer advised that the Welfare Reform Task and Finish Group had recently completed its report which had been submitted to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) in April 2013.  However, as the Traffic Management review priority could not be completed in the year it was suggested that this be reconsidered for 2013/14 by the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

Appendix A to the report detailed a list of the priorities for the Council for 2012 which had arisen following public consultation together with actions (appendix B) taken from the Corporate Plan which also reflected issues of concern to residents in the Vale. The Chairman reiterated the view that traffic management and the impact of traffic flows throughout the County, including reference to sustainable travel, was still a priority in her view.  Members in full agreement with the suggestion subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the process for considering reviews in 2013/14 as contained in the report and as previously endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group be confirmed.

 

(2)       T H A T the suggested topic for review, to be put forward to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group is:

 

-         Traffic Management – the impact of traffic flows within the county, including sustainable travel.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In recognition of the role of Scrutiny and to facilitate Scrutiny Committee work programmes as outlined in the Council’s Constitution.

 

(2)       In view of the contents of the report.