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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 11th March, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillor E. Hacker (Vice-Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. P. Drake, H.J.W. James, P. King and S.T. Wiliam.

 

Also present: Councillor R.F. Curtis.

 

Prior to the meeting the Chairman welcomed Councillor H.J.W. James and S.T. Wiliam as Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment). The also took the opportunity to thank Councillor C. J. Williams, a previous Member, for his commitment to the work of the Committee and stated that as he had been a previous Member of the Task and Finish Group on Traffic Management, it was her intention to invite Councillor Williams to a future meeting of the group and to the Scrutiny Committee when the final report would be presented. This was duly  accepted by all present.

 

 

918     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor A.G. Powell.

 

 

919     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 11th February, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

920     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

921     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2013 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2014 (DDS & DVSH) -

 

The Committee received a report regarding the revenue and capital budgets  within its remit and attached at Appendix 1 was a graph and table which set out the variance between the profile budget and actual expenditure to date.  In presenting the report the Accountant advised that there was a current adverse variance of £87,000 in respect of Highways Maintenance, Engineering Design and Procurement which was mainly due to a reduction in the income being achieved by the Engineering Section due to a reduction in the number of capital schemes requiring Engineering advice/design.  However, it was anticipated that schemes would become available later in the financial year thereby increasing the level of income. 

 

For Waste Management a favourable variance of £148,000 was reported, the saving being mainly linked to vacant posts within the Service and a reduction in the amount of waste being sent to landfill.  With regard to Grounds Maintenance it was reported that the favourable variance of £92,000 was attributable to the reduction in levels of overtime.  However, as the Department needed to replace a large amount of machinery before the end of the financial year a balanced budget was anticipated.  For Support Service there was currently a nil variance to the profiled budget and for Economic Development there was a favourable variance of £13,000 due to staff vacancies.

 

The favourable variance for Leisure Services of £16,000 was mainly due to current staff vacancies in the Countryside Service, although there would be the need to repair the thatched roof at Cosmeston Medieval Village with it being expected that any underspend within the Service would be used to fund this additional expenditure.

 

For Planning and Transportation a favourable variance of £5,000 was reported and although there had been higher than anticipated income to date it was further anticipated that expenditure within this service would result in a balanced budget at the year end.

 

In referring to the Capital Programme the Accountant stated that Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress to date and advised Members of the following adjustments that had been reflected in that Appendix :-

 

Vehicle Replacement Programme - A request had been made to carry forward £369k of funding to the 2014/15 Capital Programme.  This would fund 2 new Highways Gritters at £174k and 3 highways 7.5T tippers at a cost of £195k in 2014/15. The underspend in 2013/14 was due to a number of vehicles being no longer required, as a result of the extension of some vehicle lives and also as a result of savings that had been achieved on the procurement of new vehicles.

 

Skatepark at Paget Road - It had been requested that £31,965 be carried forward to cover the costs of this scheme that were expected to fall into the 2014/15 Capital Programme. In referring to the Barry Regeneration Partnership Project Development Fund  it had been requested that £120k of funding previously allocated to Maslin Park Play Area Improvements be carried forward. Committee was informed that the cost of this scheme now fell within the grant funded Barry Island Regeneration scheme in 2013/14. The budget would therefore be carried forward into the 2014/15 Capital Programme to meet the costs of the Barry Island Regeneration Scheme that were expected to fall outside the grant period.  Slippage of £5k had also been requested from the Routes into Enterprise scheme to enable the funding to be used in conjunction with the Waterloo Foundation Bursary Scheme as had been reported to Cabinet on 27th January 2014, (minute number C2182).

 

With regard to the Alexandra Gardens Community Centre slippage of £7,500 had been requested to cover retention costs due to be paid in 2014/15. In addition it was also requested that an underspend of £42,000 be carried forward to be used to improve facilities in the surrounding area. For S106 Various Play Area Upgrades  £74,100 had been requested to be carried forward into the 2014/15 Capital Programme to cover the costs of the scheme that were expected to fall in 2014/15.

 

Appendix 3 to the report provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000. 

 

In response to a query from a Member regarding the improvements at Maslin Park, the Director of Development Services explained that as the Welsh Government grant fund for the Barry Island Eastern Promenade regeneration work would expire at the  end of March 2014 the department had asked Welsh Government to fund the improvements this year so that the Council could utilise its own funding to conclude the promenade works in the next financial year.

 

In response to a query for an update in relation to the recent fire at Penarth Leisure Centre and any cost implications to the Council, the Director responded by stating that the Council was responsible for insuring the building and Parkwood for the contents and loss of takings.  Confirmation had also been received that the costs for the building would be met from the Council’s insurers.

 

A Member queried the possibility of  the £42,000 underspend reported for Alexandra Gardens Community Centre being utilised towards the cost of a sprung floor at the premises. The Director agreed to investigate the feasibility of such a request and to report back to Members although it appeared that this matter had been investigated previously. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to paragraph 14 in the report and the Vehicle Replacement Programme, stated that she had requested the Director of Visible Services and Housing to provide a report to the Committee, in due course, to include the issue of vehicle telemetry and that this had been added to the Committee’s work programme.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -  

 

(1)       T H A T the revenue and capital monitoring report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T  the Director advise of the feasibility of a sprung floor at the  Alexandra Gardens Community Centre and respond to Members accordingly.

 

(3)       T H A T it be noted that a further report in respect of the Vehicle replacement Programme had already been added to the work programme of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members.

 

(2)       In light of Members’ requests at the meeting. 

 

 

922     IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 1 (IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES 2014/2015) (DDS) -

 

The report sought approval of the Council’s proposed improvement objectives for 2014/15. 

 

The Director of Development Services in presenting the report, advised that the Corporate Plan was a key means of the Council complying with the Local Government Measure 2009 which required the Council to set 'improvement objectives’ annually and demonstrate continuous improvement.  Eight improvement objectives were proposed for 2014/15 which included four that had been carried forward from 2013/14 and which had been amended to reflect the areas of focus for further improvement work in 2014/15.

 

The two objectives specifically applying to the remit of the Scrutiny Committee for the Directorate of Development Services were reported as:

  • Objective 1 - to improve employability of local people by facilitating learning opportunities, vocational and employment skills
  • Objective 4 - to support and enhance the town centres of the Vale of Glamorgan for the benefit of residents, visitors and businesses. 

Appendix 1 to the report which outlined the proposed objectives for 2014/15 also provided a rationale for each objective, the measures to be undertaken to make a difference, and the identified lead officer at chief officer level with responsibility to ensuring the achievement of key outcomes. Challenging targets had also been set against all measures for improvement, reflecting the Council’s commitment to continuously improve the services it provided to citizens of the Vale. 

 

In referring to the actions to be taken to make a difference the Director referred to an annual population survey which had identified a steady increase in economic activity with the Vale being marginally below the Welsh average. 

 

In response to a query as to whether digital inclusion referred in Objective 1 was considered to be beneficial and what progress had been made, the Director stated that digital inclusion would be an advantage as it was part of an initiative to assist people to make it easier to access services.  The Department would also be actively promoting digital inclusion by extending information literacy activities in libraries

 

With regard to Objective 4, it was noted that town centres were an important element of the economic and social fabric of the Vale and support for town centres formed a key part of the re-generation vision for the Vale of Glamorgan.  Members were advised that the Vale’s main town centres had not been immune to the impact of the economic downturn or out of town retail developments in the area and further afield. 

 

Whilst some of the aspirations for regeneration outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17 had stalled due to the economic climate, the Council, remained committed to bringing forward further redevelopment activities to its main town centres as the economy improved.

 

A Member in referring to the increase in traffic in town centres asked what suggestions were being considered to improve the impact of this.  In response the Director advised that there was no easy solution.  The Council could consider parking restrictions in town centres and charging policies but this could have an impact on the economic viability of the town.  A Member also queried whether people’s expectations were being raised over and above what could be offered as a result of recent consultation events.  The Director advised that the Council was keen to stress that town centre management was a partnership, and that the focus should be on ownership of initiatives by the Town centres themselves and working together with their traders.

 

In referring to Barry Town Centre, reference was made as to what plans were being considered for the north of Holton Road and if there would be any parking planned for High Street and parts of Holton Road.  With regard to Upper Holton Road the Director advised that two reports had been presented to Cabinet on Monday, 10th March in relation to grant assistance and he encouraged Members to consider both reports.  In addressing the query for Upper Holton Road he referred to the Renewal Area work that had been initiated and in particular to the Council offering grant assistance for the conversion of empty retail properties into residential dwellings. 

 

In referring to parking issues the Director also advised that a feasibility study had been undertaken which was due to be concluded in the next few weeks.  Initial feedback had found that the Council could provide a reasonable number of additional parking provisions by reconfiguring, for example, various kerbs etc. or by dedicating certain streets for certain parking configurations.  In his opinion however, High Street was a difficult issue with one possible suggestion being that increased waiting times be created.  In response to a specific query from a Member regarding the Buffs Club, the Director advised that redevelopment could be a possible consideration in the longer term.

 

In response to a query as to whether there were criteria for the types of shops that should be established in the area, the Director advised that no criterion was set for the types of shops.  In redesigning the boundaries of recognised shopping centres, the intention had been to clarify that certain premises in certain locations were now outside what the Council considered to be the core area for shopping and that it was now more flexible in agreeing to properties being reconfigured for housing purposes if desired by the owner.

 

The Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services, with permission to speak, stated that the Cabinet had spent some time in discussing the Holton Road report at its meeting on 10th March and urged all Members to consider it in detail.  He also stated that the Council had received a presentation from BT regarding Broadband services and suggested that the Committee may itself wish to receive a similar presentation at a future meeting.

 

Following consideration of the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the proposed improvement objectives for 2014/15 be endorsed.

 

Reasons for recommendation

 

(1)       To ensure the Council identified key annual improvement priorities for 2014/15 in line with the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

 

(2)       To ensure that improvement objectives focused specifically on the areas where there was a need for improvement, reflecting the work being undertaken across the Council to improve the quality of life for Vale residents.

 

(3)       To enable the Council to more easily demonstrate achievement of its priorities.

 

 

923     3RD QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORT - DEVELOPMENT SERVICES (DDS) -

 

In presenting the report, the Director advised that the Department was on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 78% of the actions currently either having been completed or on track with the details being reported under each objective as contained within the report.

 

The Department’s contribution to the Corporate Plan was also well on course with 93% of those actions on track for completion.  Out of the 34 actions in the Service Plan, the Director also reported that 3 had been completed, 38 were on track and 3 had slipped.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the performance report for Development services be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

 

924     3RD QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORT - VISIBLE SERVICES (DVSH) -

 

The Operational Manager for Waste Management and Cleansing presented the report on behalf of the Director of Visible Services, advising that the Department was on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 54% of actions currently either completed or on track.

 

The Corporate Plan was also well on track with 67% of actions completed or on track for completion.  Of the 12 actions within the Service Plan, 2 actions had been completed, 6 were on track, 3 had slipped and 1 had not been started.

 

Having considered the report if was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Quarter 3 performance report for Visible Services  be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

925     DEVELOPMENT SERVICES SERVICE PLAN 2014-2018 (DDS) -

 

The Director, in presenting the Service Plan, stated that the Department had developed specific directorate outcomes which linked together the corporate outcomes and objectives.  The outcomes and objectives were critical in that they described improvements the Department would be making across the whole of the Directorate in the next four years.  Five objectives had been agreed as detailed below:

 

Objective  1: To promote participation in a diverse range of sporting, cultural, recreational and community interests and activities.

 

Objective 2: To promote a safe, fair, attractive and secure environment for residents, businesses and visitors through a range of activities.

 

Objective 3: To facilitate and promote investment in the local economy in order to secure sustainable economic growth and improve employment opportunities.

 

Objective 4: To promote integrated and sustainable transport systems for the Vale.

 

Objective 5: To protect and preserve the Vale’s unique environment by conserving and enhancing special places and mitigating the impact of development and investment.

 

In further presenting the report the Director referred to three changes that required approval by the Scrutiny Committee:

  • Page 42 - reference to Upper Holton Road, Barry the number of retail units of  8% should read 13.9%
  • Page 93 - Reference DS06/MO22a - percentage of vacancy rates for retail units in Upper Holton Road, Barry, be deleted in view of discussions as detailed earlier within the meeting
  • Page 94 - DS10/MO34 - the descriptions should be recorded as 2 PI’s not one.

In response to a query from a Member as to whether the Department was actively seeking the establishment of a new cinema for the town of Barry, the Director advised that to date the Council had not been able to attract anyone to provide such a facility but would continue to work on the issue.  A Member referred to the Pier Pavilion in Penarth and in particular to a successful initiative that had been provided for people with a hearing impairment where subtitled movies were being shown  on the premises. 

 

In response to a question as to whether the Council had progressed the issue of a museum for the Vale the Director responded by stating that a report had been prepared on the best way to deliver such a project with it being accepted that there were a number of organisations throughout the Vale who could jointly develop such a facility.  However, the organisations needed to join and work together to provide such a facility and the Council would be keen to encourage the organisations to work together.

 

In response to a query regarding the Council’s aim for a sound LDP, a Member sought clarity on the ability to do this noting the fact that the LDP allocations for housing stood at over 4,000 properties more than had been envisaged.  The Director advised that the word 'sound' related to the LDP guidelines and that in referring to the Council’s current LDP a consultation exercise would be undertaken regarding the alternative sites which was to commence on 20th March 2014.  Following this process any responses would then be considered together with the responses that had already been received in 2013 with the intention that a further report detailing any focussed changes be also subject to a further consultation exercise.   A final report would then be presented to an Inspector who would consider the Plan.  The Inspector’s role would be to consider whether the Plan was sound which would include details of housing forecast figures, evidence in relation to road schemes and public transport improvements etc. before a decision be made as to whether the Plan was 'sound’.

 

Following consideration of the Service Plan it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Development Services Service Plan for 2014/18  subject to the following amendments be accepted and referred to Cabinet for approval:-

  • Page 42 - vacancy rates for Upper Holton Road, Barry be amended to read 13.9%
  • Page 93 - DS06/MO22a reference be deleted
  • Page 94 - DS10/MO34 be split into 2 indicators.

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the comments made at the meeting and in order to ensure the Service Plan is considered / approved by Cabinet.

 

 

926     VISIBLE SERVICES SERVICE PLAN 2014-18 (DVSH) -

 

The Operational Manager for Waste Management and Cleansing, in presenting the report, advised that appropriate action to minimise the service risks identified within the report were also reflected throughout the Plan under relevant objectives. 

 

Having considered the opportunities and the risks the Department had agreed the following service outcomes and objectives:

Service Outcome 1 - Our customers have access to sustainable waste and recycling services

 

Objective 1 - To reduce municipal waste by increasing re-use, recycling, regulation and enforcement

 

Service Outcome 2 - The Vale is a clean, safe, well maintained and sustainable place to live or visit

 

Objectives -

 

To improve our highways and infrastructure and manage the effects of climate change on the built and natural environment.

 

To provide opportunities for outdoor play, recreation and education by creating and maintaining public green spaces.

 

To maintain the standard of cleanliness and visual appearance of the local environment.

 

The Chairman, in response to a Member’s query regarding flood risk management,  advised that the Committee had already requested to receive a report on the subject as contained  within the Committee’s work programme.  She also advised that work had begun on site at Coldbrook and local issues had been addressed by the Director.

 

In referring to the Club House at Jenner Park Members requested to receive information in relation to plans for its future in due course.  In response to queries regarding the issue of car parking charges and an update report on XFOR Members were informed that reports were shortly to be presented on both to Cabinet  and that both had been added to the Committee’s work programme for consideration in due course.   

 

A Member raised concerns in relation to the lack of advertisement when there were  any changes to street lighting and in particular the implications of LED lights which did not seem to provide the same floodlight provision as previous lighting systems.  Members suggested that the technicians be requested to look at different types of diffusers before installation.  The Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services, with permission to speak, stated that a report on the very subject was again shortly to be presented to Cabinet and that he would ask the Department to look into the issue of other types of diffusers.   In response Members agreed that the suggestion of a leaflet drop prior to any changes was considered to be the most advantageous way of advising the public of any changes in their local areas.

 

Having fully considered the Service Plan it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Service Plan for Visible Services be endorsed, it being noted that further reports as outlined above and as contained within the Committee’s work programme schedule would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the contents therein and the reports that had been requested by the Committee.

 

 

927     TASK AND FINISH ACTIVITIES FOR 2014/15 (HDS) -

 

Members were updated on the current Scrutiny work and review being undertaken and were requested to consider the process for agreeing topics for review in 2014/15.  The Democratic and Scrutiny Officer advised that the Traffic Management Task and Finish Group of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) intended to report to Committee in April 2014.  All Scrutiny Committees’ work programmes would also be agreed for 2014/15, taking into account the following criteria for submission of reviews, having regard to priorities of the Council as reflected in the Corporate Plan, the Improvement Plan Part 1 (Improvement Objectives 2014/15) and the Cabinet Forward Work Programme:

  • whether the topic is specific (has a clear remit / question to answer)
  • whether achievable (in the time given and the resources available)
  • likely to generate productive outcomes
  • timely and relevant (i.e. it being a Council / community priority) and
  • of public interest.

As in previous years, each Scrutiny Committee would be required to recommend items to be put forward for review to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group to prioritise.  In order to assist the process, Committees were being asked to limit the number of such items to two per Committee. The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) was also currently undertaking scrutiny work in relation to school performance with it being noted that considerable time was already being given to arranging, administering, undertaking research and supporting panel members in these exercises.

 

Members were subsequently requested to consider items for submission to the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group and reference was made to paragraph 7 of the report which referred to the number of surveys that had been undertaken throughout the year which were considered may be of assistance when Members were considering their suggestions.  The Committee also noted that any member of the public could request that an item be considered by a Scrutiny Committee by completing the relevant proforma which was available on the Council’s website and / or from the Democratic and Scrutiny Services section.  

 

In order to fully appreciate the surveys that had been undertaken, the outcomes of such and the priorities of the Corporate Plan and Improvement Objectives Members suggested that the discussion in relation to agreeing a topic for review be deferred to the next meeting. The Democratic Services Officer also agreed to forward the Scrutiny Review Topic Suggestion form to Members in order that this could be completed in advance of the meeting.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the update on Scrutiny reviews be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the process for considering reviews in 2014 as contained within the report and as previously endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group be endorsed.

 

(3)       T H A T suggested items for a Scrutiny review be considered at the next meeting of the Committee in April 2014.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    In recognition of the role of Scrutiny and to facilitate Scrutiny work programmes as outlined in the Council’s Constitution.