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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on, 18th June, 2013.

 

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

 

Also present: Councillors L. Burnett, G. John and N. Moore.

 

 

            MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th May, 2013 be approved as a correct record subject to it being noted that the financial breakdown in relation to the closure of the Barry Bike Centre would be forwarded to Members for information.

 

 

            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

           

            GRANTS TO COMMUNITY / ORGANISATIONS: REVIEW OF SERVICES OFFERED TO THE COUNCIL BY VALEWAYS –

 

Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson had requested a call-in on the matter for the following reason:

 

'Valeways has been supported by the Vale of Glamorgan since 1996 and in receipt of a grant of £30,000 per annum for a 3 year period.  Cabinet was informed on 28th March 2012 that the new organisation structure was 'leaner' and that a lower figure of £20,000 was required for 1 year.  This has now been replaced by a final grant of £10,000 and an offer of support to turn Valeways into a sustainable organisation, which assumes termination of funding.  I would like an assessment of the service provided by Valeways to determine the impact on Vale residents of Cabinet’s decision to withdraw grant support for the organisation and the likely support available for a sustainable organisation in future.'

 

At the meeting Councillor Dr. Johnson queried why there had been a delay of several months in providing the funding as Valeways had presented their application to the Department in December 2012.  He referred to the Cabinet meeting of 28th March 2012 where Cabinet had resolved that a full review of the services offered to the Council by Valeways be undertaken. Councillor Dr. Johnson queried whether the review had taken place. He also queried what indicators of success had been developed to assure the justification of the core funding and what previous work had been undertaken with Valeways regarding core funding issues.  He was concerned at the 100% decrease of funding over a three year period.  He requested information in relation to what discussions had taken place with the organisation and why only £10,000 funding had been agreed for the forthcoming year. He referred to the long term viability of the organisation and what plans the Council had to take on the work currently undertaken by Valeways. In particular he referred to the maintenance work that Valeways carried out.

 

In response and in referring to the report the Director for Development Services advised that the delivery of services by Valeways was primarily undertaken in the following ways:

 

·               Walk and Clear Events

·               Volunteer Work Parties

·               Publication of Leaflets

·               Website

·               Walking Festival and

·               Walking for Health.

 

The Director also advised that the report to Cabinet of 3rd June outlined the scope of the review and advised that the funding arrangements had expired at the end of the financial year and Valeways had applied for further core funding for 2013/14.  The Council had also recently received an application for match funding in relation to a grant for £12,000 and attached at Appendix 1 to the report was the request for funding support.

 

The report stated that it was clear that Valeways made a modest contribution to the rights of way functions of the Council and also contributed to broader agendas.  There were direct grants potentially available to resource delivery of many of these activities and these continued to be made available to the organisation as appropriate.  The current request sought funding for core running costs of the organisation and that these core costs were not currently supported for other walking / walking promotion groups.

 

In previous years Valeways had proposed to develop other sources of income and to establish itself on a more sustainable footing.  Despite many years of core financial support, evidence suggested that no progress had been made in this respect.  In 2012 a reduced core grant of £20,000 had been awarded, in part to encourage the organisation to travel in the direction referred to above, but the organisation appeared to be growing its core costs again with no comparable growth in sustainable income.  The group had also had opportunities to resource core costs via specific project funding, other grants and income opportunities such as sponsorship, but needed to establish itself with a more businesslike approach and to account for core costs within its project activities.  Funding for specific deliverables, projects or services via Council operational budgets, grant regimes or other bodies could include a contribution to core costs, and if sufficient demand was made on the organisation’s services, all core costs would be covered. 

 

The Operational Manager Countryside and Economic Projects was also present at the meeting and advised that he had recommended that if any core grant was given to Valeways it respected the above need and be reduced to a  maximum of £10,000. This would be for one further year only to provide an incentive to develop a sustainable business model with the message being again clearly communicated to the organisation. 

 

The Director advised that the Voluntary Action Scheme funding grant had not been intended as a permanent grant, it had been for start up costs and given the year on year continuous funding that had been provided, it was now an appropriate time to look at and consider how sustainable the organisation was for the future.  Officers of the Council would however help and assist the organisation to look to the future and to consider other avenues of funding.  He stated that he had considered the matter in the context of other budgetary issues that he faced within his Directorate and as the department had significant issues, a year on year grant had not been considered appropriate in this instance. 

 

The Operational Manager also advised that his department was currently looking at possible redundancies for staff and he had to consider the Valeways position and its value for money as a service to the Council.  He however advised that, in his opinion, Valeways had huge potential but that it needed to operate in a businesslike manner.  Fundraising activities needed to be agreed and pursued and the Vale Volunteer Bureau could assist in accessing volunteers to provide fundraising work etc.  Members were informed that suggestions for raising income could be via sponsorship, corporate funded walks with the organisation adopting a businesslike approach. 

 

The Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development, with permission to speak, advised that he considered that there were a number of ways for the organisation to seek support.  He appreciated the work and the value that Valeways provided but that the Council could not sustain the financial support that had been previously provided.  Officers had also offered to meet with the organisation and the Vale Volunteer Bureau had confirmed they would be happy to meet as well, in order to consider options for the future.

 

Mrs. Val Warlow, Trustee of Valeways, was then invited to make representations to the Committee.  She commenced by advising that within the last 10 years Valeways had improved the walkways within the Vale by 50%.  She stated that actual volunteer hours were very considerably higher than stated in the report.  They had also undertaken routine maintenance and developed volunteers to assist in the work, she confirmed that the organisation provided guided walk leaflets, 'Easy Walks in the Vale' leaflets, was involved in the national walking trail and stated that the commitment of Valeways and encouraging walking for tourism had broadened the lives of a number of Vale residents and would assist visitors.  She stated that she would welcome discussions to consider additional ways of pursuing core funding as this was required for office accommodation and admin costs, etc.  Copies of information produced by Valeways was presented to Members at the meeting, together with a list of Valeways’ funding applications from September 2012 to May 2013 and prospective applications for 2013/14. 

 

In referring to the Ramblers Association, she advised that her knowledge, the only maintenance that they had undertaken was in relation to the Western Vale. She further stated that the organisation had always found funding independent of the Council and the volunteers had been upset by the terminology used in the report of 'a modest contribution'.   She urged the Members to consider the progress that had been made to date and that the organisation would be happy to consider further funding opportunities in the coming year.  In conclusion she stated that the group was always willing to meet with the Vale Council to assist with ideas for the future.

 

The Operational Manager for Countryside and Economic Projects further advised applications for funding should include the full costs associated with an activity.  In conclusion he stated that the Council could no longer provide the size of grant that had previously been provided and advised that the original amount had been for start up costs only.  In referring to the volunteer hours, he stated that the report included the volunteer hours reported to the Council formally by Valeways, and if this was inaccurate then it reflected only on the accuracy of the information provided by Valeways, and this in turn reflected badly on the organisation which relied on external support.  He also referred to the Ramblers Association and stated that the very substantial work that they had undertaken in the Western Vale was completed without core funding and he urged Valeways to consider adopting the same approach. 

 

In referring to the comments made by Councillor Dr. Johnson he advised that Valeways had been given the opportunity to meet with the Council and had provided a presentation to informal Cabinet.  That had taken a considerable time to organise and as such had not been able to bring the report to the Committee until that opportunity had been provided.  The Cabinet report was itself the conclusion of the review that had been undertaken.  With regard to the appropriateness of the bid, there had been an ongoing discussion with Valeways over the previous years and with the Council trying to steer the organisation into considering other funding opportunities.  In referring to a recent application to Environmental Wales for a grant he stated that this had had resulted in the Council being requested to provide a letter of support, the Council had thus asked to meet with the organisation to discuss implications.  This meeting had not taken place but the grant application was submitted anyway, resulting in pressure on the Council to provide core funding as match for the project. To this end, no opportunity to steer the application could be made on behalf of the Council as the Council had not been given the full opportunity to discuss the application in detail or to consider whether the issue was a priority for the Council for the coming year.  In relation to the figure of £10,000 he stated that the grant had been offered as a means of reducing the support to Valeways but to provide them with a little longer for Valeways to put itself on a sustainable footing and to reorganise.  He however hoped that Valeways would continue to strengthen and reiterated that they were valued by the Council but that they needed to approach their work in a more businesslike manner. 

 

In terms of specific assistance that had been provided to Valeways, the Council had tried to advise them and point them in the right direction in suggesting ways how they could work in the future.  He reaffirmed that the Council had a limited pot of money for grant funding and that the Voluntary Action Scheme was intended to be a kick start of support and that the Authority could signpost the organisation to for other funding opportunities.

 

Members, aware that most volunteer organisations could not fund staff and that the core strength was its volunteers, asked the officers what compromises could be reached in the support of Valeways.  The Director advised that there was no suggestion to break ties with Valeways and that his officers could offer support and advice and possibly establish contracts for specific services rather than just consider applications for core funding. 

 

A Member thought that the leaflets that had been produced although excellent were of superior quality and thought that cutting costs in this area could save on funding or that the organisation should consider other ways of seeking sponsorship to produce the document.  Members also advised that there were a number of worthwhile organisations that the Council was also having to reconsider funding for in light of its budgetary position. They considered that it was inappropriate to keep funding a grant for core funding when the organisation should itself be looking at economies of scale.  Although Members were keen to advise Valeways that they were an impressive organisation and that the work they delivered was highly valued, they were also aware of the Council’s budgetary position and the need to make savings.  However, they were pleased to note that the department was willing to provide expertise and advice to organisations.   Officers confirmed that a request for a meeting had already been planned which would be arranged as soon as possible.  Having fully considered the representations made at the meeting and the contents of the report the Committee subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the recommendations of Cabinet of 3rd June be accepted.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having fully considered the representations and the contents of the report.

 

 

            BARRY ISLAND – UPDATE ON REGENERATION, THE PRODUCTION OF A MASTER PLAN AND MARKETING OF NELL’S POINT (REF) –

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information.  The report provided Members with an update on regeneration proposals for Barry Island and also provided information relating to the proposed Barry Island master plan, including the reason for its production and method of consultation and delivery.  In addition the report also sought authority to market the Nell’s Point site on Barry Island.

 

In presenting the report the Director advised that in December 2007 Cabinet had been presented with a report regarding Nell’s Point and future potential land uses.  That report had been agreed and contained a recommendation relating to the appointment of consultancy support and in accordance with recommendation (4) of that report, Humberts Leisure had been appointed in June 2009. 

 

The Humberts recommendations had been reported to Cabinet in April 2010 and following a period of public consultation it had been decided that the recommendations of that report needed to be considered within a wider master plan context.  Following discussions with the Barry Regeneration Board the LDP / Collins Group had been appointed to advise on an alternative set of end uses which might be promoted for Barry Island via a more targeted marketing approach.  LDP / Collins had produced a two stage marketing study which had then been reported to Cabinet in October 2012. 

 

Subsequent to the reports being presented in October, officers had, working alongside the Welsh Government, appraised the process, costs and risks associated with taking forward the targeted marketing approach as advocated by LDP / Collins.  It had been concluded that the approach suggested was not one that had been used by the public sector or Welsh Government and therefore had risks associated with it.  The advice, therefore, had been not to follow this approach as it was not considered that it provided best value for the Council’s limited resources.  In addition to the challenging timescale under the Regeneration Area funding stream this had heightened the risk associated with the LDP / Collins approach and finally the funding gap, even accounting for the Barry Regeneration Area funding, had been a hugely material factor when considering which option to progress.  As a result, work had progressed on proposals to aid regeneration of the Island and this course of action had been reported through the Barry Regeneration Area Partnership Board on 19th February 2013.  It was agreed at this meeting that regeneration area funding be used to progress a suite of public realm proposals as presented in the report to Scrutiny and Cabinet in October 2012. 

 

Alongside the above matter, the Welsh Government had recently produced a consultation document, Vibrant and Viable Places – A New Regeneration Framework, which is the result of a policy review of approaches to regeneration instigated by the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage in February 2012.

 

The consultation document and various commissioned reports which had informed the review were issued on 22nd October 2012.  The closing date for responses to the Welsh Government was 14th January 2013.  Given the direction proposed in the Vibrant and Viable Places paper it was essential that funding bids under the proposed regime were supported by strategic plans and it was proposed that the developing master plan for Barry Island could provide the required framework to support submissions for further funding at the Island which was recently identified as the central project for the Barry Regeneration Board in 2013-14.

 

The CABE document – Creating Successful Master Plans – advised that to ensure that the master plan did not become yet another Study, implementation must be considered from the start and throughout the master planning process.  Clarifying and understanding realistic delivery strategies was an essential part of master planning and one which had to commence as soon as possible.  It was important to recognise at the outset of the process that master plans should not be seen as rigid blueprints for development and design.  A detailed document entitled 'Setting the Scene' had been made available in the Members’ Room. 

 

The Director was recommending a suite of actions in respect of Barry Island to sit and progress alongside the regeneration activity that was proposed on the Island for the coming financial year.  It had been considered opportune and appropriate to market Nell’s Point whilst at the same time consulting on the 'Setting the Scene' document.  He further advised that the Barry Regeneration Area Board had met in the afternoon before the meeting and had been advised of the progress.  The first phase in particular related to Nell’s Point and the breaking up of the former Butlins site.  It was envisaged that the work would conclude in July and that there would be no construction activity in the holiday season.  There had been planning conditions attached such as suppression and, in response to a query from a Member, the Project Manager advised that the planning approval referred to the car park scheme and indicated how the car park would operate and what would be done if dust occurred.  Should the situation change a report would be presented to the Planning Committee.  In response to a query from a Member the Officer confirmed that monitoring would continue to take place of the site.  The car park would be temporary in nature, if interest from a quality user came forward, the site would be redeveloped but as the car park had been considered a wasted resource, it would be used in this connection until a user was found. 

 

Members thanked the officers for the comprehensive report and subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

 

            REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2013 TO 30TH APRIL 2013 (DDS AND DVSH) –

 

The Head of Accountancy and Resource Monitoring presented the position in respect of the revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 30th  April 2013 regarding the revenue and capital budgets within the remit of the Committee. 

 

Highways Maintenance & Engineering Design & Procurement - As it was very early in the financial year there was currently no variance to the profiled budget.  The original budget for 2013/14 took account of the savings required. The budget would be monitored closely to ensure these savings were achieved.  The overall budget was currently expected to outturn on target.

 

Waste Management - As it was very early in the financial year there was currently no variance to the profiled budget.  The original budget for 2013/14 took account of the savings required and good progress had already been made to achieve this. The budget was currently expected to outturn on target.

 

Grounds Maintenance -  The original budget for 2013/14 took account of the savings required.  The budget was currently expected to outturn on target.

 

Support – There was currently a favourable variance of £9k to the profiled budget and the budget was to be held for any cost pressures within Visible Services that may arise throughout the financial year. Currently this budget was also projected to outturn on target.

 

Economic Development - The budget was currently expected to outturn on target, however there were continued pressures on the service which would be closely monitored.

 

Leisure - The budget was currently expected to outturn on target, however there were continued pressures on the service which would also be closely monitored.

 

Planning and Transportation - The budget was currently expected to outturn on target, and again although there were continued pressures on the service these would be closely monitored.

 

Capital

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th April 2013.

 

The monitoring report showed actual expenditure spent for the month of April 2013 and was matched by a similar figure in the profile to date column, thereby showing no variances.  Profiled expenditure had been requested from Project Managers and would be updated in the next report to the Committee.

 

In referring to the appendices, the officer advised that the revenue and capital report was early in the financial year but that at the next meeting more detail on the schemes would be presented.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

            VALE OF GLAMORGAN TOWN CENTRE FRAMEWORK (REF) –

 

The report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information purposes, it being noted that one of the recommendations was that the Scrutiny Committee would be invited to a stakeholder engagement event and to also receive a report on the feedback from the event in advance of the matter being reported back to Cabinet.  The report provided the Committee with details of the progress made in preparing a Town Centre Framework for the Vale of Glamorgan and the next steps in publicising the document.   The Director advised that a copy of the Town Centre Framework had been made available in the Members’ Room and was also available to view online on the Vale of Glamorgan website. 

 

In November 2011 Consultants Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners had been commissioned to produce a framework to guide the future of the five principal town centre areas in the Vale of Glamorgan.  Since that time work had progressed, culminating in the final document being received during the last week in April of 2013.  The Town Centre Framework was intended to guide the future of the following five town centres in the Vale of Glamorgan:

 

·               Holton Road, Barry

·               High Street and Broad Street, Barry

·               Cowbridge

·               Llantwit Major

·               Penarth.

 

In producing the Framework, detailed site visits had been undertaken to all town centre areas and a SWOT analysis had been undertaken for each centre.  In addition, consultation events had been undertaken for each centre and a range of discussions had been held between the Consultant team and officers and Members of the Council.

 

As a consequence of the analysis of data, responses and feedback as a result of stakeholder consultation and a consideration of national, regional and local trends, the document sought to identify the challenges facing each centre. The document sets a vision for each centre and identifies strategic objectives with a range of actions that contribute to the objections. For completeness the vision for each of the town centres was noted as follows:

 

Holton Road

 

'Managing change for a viable 21st Century Centre'.

 

High Street and Broad Street

 

'Barry's independent cluster and night time destination'.

 

Cowbridge

 

'Destination Cowbridge'

 

Llantwit Major

 

'Historical Gateway to Glamorgan Heritage Coast'.

 

Penarth

 

'The Vale's artistic and cultural hub'.

 

In referring to the recommendations of Cabinet that the Scrutiny Committee be invited to the stakeholder engagement event, it was noted that it had recently been acknowledged that one event had would not be appropriate and as a result four sessions had been suggested in the relevant areas in Barry, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major and Penarth.  The aim would be to receive feedback on the document and to report back to Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet with any comments.  The aim was that these sessions would take place prior to August but if this proved difficult, early September. 

 

It was the intention to also report the document to the Local Service Board.

 

In response to a query from a Member as to why the consultation meetings could not take place in August, the Director advised that he had no specific objections to this but due to the fact that this would be the school holidays and more people would be away at some point, it was considered more beneficial to undertake the exercise either in July or September. 

 

Having considered the report the Scrutiny Committee

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T all Members of the Scrutiny Committee be advised of the forthcoming dates for the sessions as outlined above as soon as possible.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In consideration of the contents of the report.

 

(2)       In order to gain best possible attendance and to apprise Members.

 

 

            WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION: PLANNING FOR WASTE – REVISION TO CHAPTER 12 OF PLANNING POLICY WALES AND TECHNICAL ADVICE NOTE (REF) –

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information on 3rd June when Cabinet had been advised of the Welsh Government’s recent consultation document on planning for waste and approval had been sought of the report as the Council’s formal response to the consultation. 

 

In presenting the report the Director referred to the Planning Policy Wales (PPW) document which set the context for sustainable land use planning policy within which Local Authorities’ statutory Local Development Plans were prepared and development control decision on individual planning applications and appeals made.  In conjunction with this document a number of technical advice notes referred to as TANs were also produced.  The consultation document referred to explained that both planning policy and technical advice must reflect the changes made by the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive in terms of priority order of waste management and the new policies, priorities and targets for waste set out in 'Towards Zero Waste' and the suite of Sector Plans that help deliver it. 

 

Consideration needed to be given to how planning policy could reflect and interact with these new waste policy drivers in a way that delivered these objectives whilst ensuring compliance with European obligations.

 

Appendix A to the Cabinet report detailed the Council’s proposed response to the consultation.  In noting within the main the report was driven by EU directives and reflected the continuous move from landfill it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report and its contents be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In consideration of the contents contained therein.

 

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