SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)
Minutes of a meeting held on 4th November, 2014.
Present: Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, P. King, A.G. Powell and G. Roberts.
Also present: Councillors R.J. Bertin, L. Burnett, R.F. Curtis, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, C.P. Franks, G. John and Dr. I.J. Johnson.
567 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor E. Hacker (Vice-Chairman) and Councillor S.T. Wiliam.
568 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 7th October, 2014 be approved as a correct record.
569 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
570 THE USE OF LED LIGHTS AS STREET LIGHTS (REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION) –
Councillor Bertin advised the Committee that the reasons for the request had been in light of an email that he had received from a member of the public expressing concern regarding the Council’s choice of LED lighting.
Councillor Bertin’s additional questions centred around the following:
How much does the Council save in energy and money with the lights?
Could the lights be dimmed in certain areas?
Was there a better alternative LED light?
Was there any evidence to suggest that LED lights disrupted sleep patterns?
What crime risks would the LED lights pose?
The Interested Party referred to above, Mr S Nicholas, had requested to address the Committee prior to the meeting, which had duly been agreed by the Chairman. Mr Nicholas informed the Members that he was a self - employed business man and he had stumbled upon the issue which he now felt he could not ignore.
In the first instance Mr. Nicholas stated that he had an interest in the subject matter as in his Local Authority area similar proposals had been put forward for which he had undertaken considerable research. He stated that he had an interest in the Vale and would like to return some day, he had also found that not all LED lights were the same, in fact the most energy efficient LED lights were the ones that were the most dangerous for health and safety reasons. He stated that throughout the country wherever Councils were considering the same provision, some residents had been unhappy, and in his view they had also had little support or assistance in presenting their case. He referred to a previous e-mail that he had sent to Members of the Committee on 19th October 2014 and the Chairman confirmed that following Mr Nicholas request to speak at the meeting she had asked the Democratic and Scrutiny Officer to resend the email to Members of the Committee in time for the meeting. It was noted that a copy of Mr. Nicholas’ submission to the meeting would be placed on the Council’s website for information.
Mr Nicholas in his representations reaffirmed his view that the use of LED lights would indeed use a lot less energy and make considerable savings for the Council but that in his opinion there could be serious consequences. In referring to the documentation that he had provided Mr. Nicholas referred to in his view there were 'significant omissions within the report on the agenda on the issue of blue rich white light' and there had been 'a complete failure to differentiate between the structural composition of different variants of LED luminaire and the refusal to acknowledge or even refer to the increasing body of scientific research on the potential impact on human health and the wider environment of the choice of high CCT (cool white) LED street lights with a spectral composition high in short wave length blue light.
In response to a query from a Member of the Committee as to Mr. Nicholas’ technical background on the subject, Mr Nicholas advised that he had a background in energy studies, he was a Chartered Engineer and was an affiliate of the Lighting Institution. He had also undertaken two courses which included an introduction to LED street lighting, transportation and property.
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services, with permission to speak, in response stated that he himself had been an electrician for 34 years and that Mr. Nicholas in his view should be challenging the manufacturers. His experience of the technology was that, as long as it was fitted properly, it was acceptable. The Council had also not received any complaints about the spectrum of light, in fact it had only received complaints that the lights were in fact not bright enough.
The Director of Visible Services and Housing informed Committee that this was certainly not an area where the Council had received a lot of complaints and tabled information for Members which related to the optical safety of LED lights. This information had been received from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Office, which stated that according to current international standards no light source that emits white light and is used in general lighting applications, was considered hazardous to the retina for healthy adults. However, the optical safety of speciality lamps or coloured sources should be considered on a case by case basis and light sources used around susceptible populations such as infants or adults with certain types of eye disease which would require additional evaluation. The report further stated that investigations into the effect of short wave length radiation, be it on humans or artwork, suggested that LED lights were dangerous because they emitted more blue light than other sources. Whilst it was considered true that most LED products that emit white light included a blue LED pump, the proportion of blue lighting spectrum was not significantly higher in LED lights than any other light source at the same correlated colour temperature. The Axia equipped with 48 LED lights at 700 mA complied with the requirements of the IEC/EN 62471 standard. The amount of blue light in typical architectural lighting products was not hazardous according to the building technologies office and even when the light intensity may become uncomfortably high, the risk was mitigated by natural defence mechanisms, including aversion response (blinking, head movement and pupil constriction) and continuous eye movement which protect the retina from overexposure. The information also detailed the results of a test programme that had been undertaken which was to also be uploaded to the Council’s website for information.
The Cabinet report detailed in the agenda also highlighted the financial benefits for the Vale and the question of whether the lights could be dimmed in certain areas. In response, the Director stated that it was possible to dim the Urbis Axia LED lanterns, however, based on the considerable saving made on LED as detailed in the report and, due to the low power consumption, the question was would this be necessary, but if it was crucial to dim lanterns in the future then this would certainly be possible. The Director further advised that the lamps that would be used, under full capacity, had no risks, it was an international standard and there were as many people pro LED lighting as those against it. In his view, he advised that Mr. Nicholas should be consulting the European Commission on the matter and raising his concerns with them. The Director had also taken exception to the comments that had been levied at him previously by Mr. Nicholas who had stated that the Director had been selective in his comments in the report to Cabinet. However, the Director further advised Committee that he had undertaken significant research himself on the subject. LED illumination was considered to be energy efficient and fully authorised to international standards. In his view, the lighting the Council was providing had therefore been deemed safe.
A number of Members expressed the view that they had also considered all the research, and were of the opinion that the Council was taking the best precautions it could in order to realise the savings it required.
The Cabinet Member referred to the fact that crime and health and safety concerns had also been carefully considered, the necessary agencies had been consulted and no adverse comments had been received. The Council was also not fitting cool white light, but fitting natural white light. The Visible Services department would also be undertaking a full spectrum analysis which would be reported to future meetings of the Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee.
Members thanked Mr. Nicholas for his attendance stating that the research that he had e-mailed and presented had generated considerable discussion and that it was important the Scrutiny Committee considered all evidence. However, evidence presented at the meeting by the Director and the Cabinet Member had informed Members that public health and safety was at the forefront of any decisions they made and that they too had undertaken considerable research on the subject.
Councillor Bertin, in conclusion, informed the Committee that he was not against the provision of LED lighting but wished to suggest that the Council carried out a further review in light of the fact that some reports had suggested the possibility of health issues. He also requested that, with regard to 'crime areas', that careful consideration be given to the switching off of lights in those areas. The Director advised that for areas of known antisocial behaviour lights would not be turned off, also at various junctions and highways throughout the Vale a programme would be devised which would carefully consider such areas. A number of Members stated that they were satisfied that due diligence had been undertaken by the Director and the Cabinet Member and that the information they had provided on the night corroborated that view.
Councillor Ms. Edmunds, with permission to speak, informed the Committee that she had herself recently undertaken a door to door canvas which detailed constituents concerns in respect of street lighting in the Llandough area. For the most part members of the public had been concerned about the span and dimness of the lights and the potential affects on crime. These issues had also recently been addressed by the Director of Visible Services and Housing and in the main people’s concerns appeared to have been allayed, as the lights had been altered and an acceptance that evidence and research to date showed that crime figures did not necessarily increase as a result.
It was subsequently
(1) T H A T, having heard the evidence and concerns presented the Scrutiny Committee had been reassured by the Cabinet Member and the Director of Visible Services and Housing, that due diligence had been appropriately given in relation to the use of LED lights as street lights.
(2) T H A T a further report be presented to the Committee following the review to be undertaken by the Director detailing the findings of the individual street tests and the implementation programme for the Vale of Glamorgan.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) Having considered the evidence presented.
(2) To further inform Members for future consideration.
571 STREET LIGHTING ENERGY REDUCTION STRATEGY (REF) –
Cabinet had, on 20th October 2014, referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information. At its meeting on 20th October 2014, Cabinet had resolved the following
(1) T H A T the implementation of a street lighting strategy based on the principle of reduced energy consumption with part night lighting introduced for all appropriate areas of conventional street lighting as an initial measure, as outlined in Option 6 of the report be agreed.
(2) T H A T the Director of Visible Services and Housing be authorised to invite tenders for the installation of part night timing devices for the Council's conventional street lighting stock.
(3) T H A T the background information contained in the report relating to LED lighting be noted and a further report be provided to Cabinet detailing the proposed full street lighting energy reduction strategy on conclusion of the 'part night' street lighting introduction and discussions with potential partners.
(4) T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) for information.
In presenting the report the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services advised that the report had been delayed for a number of reasons, in particular due to the volume of volume of work and research that had been undertaken in order to complete the document. He further stated that the main reason for the delay had been in order to ensure consideration of the implications for public safety.
The report outlined that there was no statutory requirement on Local Authorities in the UK to provide public lighting. The Highways Act 1980 empowered Local Authorities to light roads but did not place a duty on them to do so. The Council as the Local Highway Authority did however have a duty of care to its road users and therefore it could be deemed that it was subject to an obligation to light certain parts of the highways dependant on the level of risk posed. The Council also had a duty under the Highways Act to ensure the safety of the highway which included any lighting equipment placed on it. The report advised that Councils should give regard to its duties under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to ensure that any decisions take into account the possible effects on crime and disorder in an area.
The Council relied on unmetered electricity supplied to power its 15,795 street lights. For unmetered supplies a cost for each light unit was established based on its energy consumption and time lit, this was then totalled by the electricity supplier to provide an annual supply cost. The Council's street lighting energy costs had increased by 28% per unit of energy since 2011/12 and this trend looked set to continue.
As of 1st July, 2014, 2,247 lower wattage LED lanterns had been installed, 514 lower wattage white lanterns had been installed, 1,492 street lamps had been dimmed between midnight and 6 a.m., and 1,975 street lights dimmed between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. These changes had saved in excess of £60,000 per annum in energy costs, reducing emissions by 300 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
Funding from the Local Government Borrowing Initiative (LBGI) slipped from 2013/14 would see a further 841 lower wattage LED lanterns fitted, providing further energy savings of £27,780 and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 129 tonnes. Phase 2 of the LGBI funding, also to be completed during 2014/15, would see a further 1,400 lower wattage LED lanterns fitted, providing further energy savings of £46,246 per annum and a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions of 215 tonnes per annum.
During the past eight years electricity costs for unmetered supplies had risen dramatically. This had been despite the Council purchasing its energy at the lowest possible price via the South Wales Authorities Purchasing Consortium. The energy cost for 2013 / 2014 increased by 4.55% over the previous year had increased again by 4.57% for 2014 / 2015, resulting in a unit rate of 11.5247 pence per kw/h. Predictions suggested that energy supply prices would continue to rise in future years at above inflation rates. The Council's energy costs had not risen commensurate with the unit price increases since 2013 due to a number of energy reduction measures introduced during the period, including LED lighting and 'dimming' systems. Committee was informed that even assuming the conclusion of all new technology works planned for 2014/15, the energy costs for 2015/16 (with a further 5% energy price increase) were projected to be £919k. This was £168k over the budget that would be available.
This Council's Final Revenue Budget Proposals report for 2011/12 featured a budget reduction of £200k for Street Lighting Energy costs. Whilst some savings were made by the introduction of various new lighting technologies, this had proved insufficient, particularly due to the ever increasing unit prices for energy. As previously advised, the Street Lighting function sat within the Highways and Engineering section of Visible Services and the savings had been put forward to avoid having to reduce front-line services. As the full savings were not made during the 2011/12 period, it was necessary to use funding from Visible Services reserves during 2011/12 to bridge the funding gap. This funding had been set aside from an underspend in 2010/11 and since 2012/13 the budget gap had been funded from one off underspends elsewhere within the Directorate.
The Final Revenue Budget Report for 2014 / 2015 identified a further budget reduction of £75k for street lighting energy, with a further £100k saving being offered up for 2016/17. The savings would not be realised by incremental measures similar to those previously described and the financial outlook for 2015 - 2017 looked considerably more challenging, meaning that further energy cost savings would need to be given full consideration. The anticipated budget for 2016/17 including energy costs for traffic signals and road signs would be approximately £670k. If no action was taken the estimated energy costs in that year would be circa £970k, which would mean a budget shortfall of £300k. The service could not rely on the use of reserves going forward or underspends from elsewhere in the service and action needed to be taken to realise the maximum savings possible, giving appropriate regard to the Council’s legal duties. Since the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) in 2014 there had also been a charge levied for each tonne of CO2 produced related to the energy used to power street lamps. For this financial year the Council had purchased 17,820 CRC units to cover its overall CO2 impact with 14,000 of these units expected to be used in the coming year.
The report further highlighted that a number of rural towns and villages in England had successfully trialled schemes where all street lights had been switched off enabling much improved visual access to the night sky. In particular, in 2013 the Brecon Beacons National Park was the first location in Wales to be awarded Dark Sky status and this international status meant that the night sky was protected and lighting controls were in place to prevent light pollution. The report outlined that there were several renewable energy options such as solar and wind powered alternatives which could be used to further reduce energy costs but at present these systems were in their infancy. The report also outlined the number of options that a Council could take to deal with the issue as detailed within the report but recommended that Option 6 be the preferred option.
The report also outlined that part-night lighting schemes were not a new initiative, they had been in operation in certain local authorities in England for some time and to date the evidence from these schemes suggested that no increase in crime and disorder as a result of the lighting change had happened, although he reassured Members that current areas where crime and disorder issues existed would be lit and all other changes will be carefully monitored and assessed throughout the Vale. The Cabinet Member also assured the Committee that the night time economy areas would be lit.
The local Chief Inspector had also advised that more evidence and time was required in order to assess levels of crime. The Council also recognised that it was important that any switching off of lights on highways was discussed with the police. It was also considered essential by Members that all residents of the Vale were informed appropriately when any works or changes were being undertaken as, in their opinion, communication was key. It was further noted that quality impact assessments would also be undertaken.
In referring to the Appendix, a Member queried the CO2 savings per annum in noting that Appendix A detailed some savings for CO2 per annum as the same and they queried if this had been an error. The Director advised that as he was not adequately able to predict the additional savings per annum of using a central management system (CMS) to control the lighting times as a schedule of such times would need to be established first. Whilst he recognised that a CMS system would undoubtedly save further energy it would also cost more to introduce. He therefore considered it prudent to show no additional savings for this option based on the information he had at the time of writing the report.
Members were also disappointed that the investment for LED lights could not be made in total because of the lack of funding and it was accepted that the investment was dependent on grant funding from Welsh Government. It was further suggested that sympathetic consideration be also given to the replacement of any fittings in conservation areas.
Following a query of timing, Members were informed that trialled projects would be undertaken and a programme developed which would mean that some streets would be switched off before others. Further concerns were raised in relation to the elderly population, it being accepted that they may be reluctant to undertake trips in the evenings as a result of such schemes. The Director took the opportunity to again confirm that the issues in relation to night time economy would be borne in mind when the programme was drawn up aswell as consideration of any evidence for the movements of the elderly population and any other potentially vulnerable groups.
Councillor Chris Franks, with permission to speak, stated that he had been somewhat reassured by the comments made at the meeting and the assurances given by the Cabinet Member and the Director of Visible Services and Housing. However, he reiterated concerns that he had himself received from members of the public who were anxious as to the impact the street lighting measures could have in the smaller communities. However, he stated that fully supported the position of the Council accepting the evidence in relation to the health issues and the need to save money for the future.
Following the significant discussion on the matter it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the resolutions of the Cabinet be noted and the future reports as requested by Cabinet and detailed above be also referred to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.
Reason for recommendation
In recognition of the information provided at the meeting and in view of the financial and environmental challenges ahead for the Council.
572 ANNUAL REPORT - SECTION 106 LEGAL AGREEMENTS 2013 - 2014 (REF) -
Cabinet had considered the report at its meeting on 3rd November, 2014 and referred the same to the Scrutiny Committee for information, however, a copy of the reference from Cabinet was unable to be presented to Committee as it had been unavailable in time for the meeting. The purpose of the report had been to advise on progress on Section 106 matters that had arisen in the financial year April 2013 to March 2014. The Principal Planning Officer outlined the report advising that in the 12 months between April 2013 and March 2014 a total of 22 planning permissions had been issued, the complete list was attached at Appendix A to the report. The value of the financial contributions for the legal agreements totalled £5,431,632.24, six of the agreements related to major schemes for residential development at Fferm Goch, Rhoose, St. Athan, Culverhouse Cross, Ystraowen and Llandough. Planning obligation requirements had also been secured included 'in kind’ obligations such as the provision of on-site affordable housing, on site public open space and recreational facilities and public art. The Council’s Section 106 account currently held at 31st March, 2014 £2,238,408.41 with an additional £173,179.75 being held for ongoing maintenance costs. Areas of spend between April 2013 and March 2014 were attached at Appendix B to the report. It was also noted that a number of schemes had been progressed during 2013/14 but had not yet been completed.
In referring to Section 106 for public art, a Member queried the process and was advised that there were some outstanding agreements but an approach had been developed to ensure schemes were being progressed. In particular the department had been considering innovative ways of working as well as trying to speed up the process. The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation, with permission to speak, also advised that, in her view, the Council was making good progress on Section 106 agreements and would also be reviewing schemes to see how they could be more effective within communities and referred to a good example of this as the scheme at Belle Vue Park.
In referring to the development at Ystradowen, the local Member advised that no consultation had been undertaken on this as of yet with the officer advising that the legal agreement had been signed in 2014 and consultation would take place when the money was actually received. A Member also made reference to some Wards where no Section 106 money was available and stated that they were more inclined to look to the infrastructure levy to assist such communities.
The Scrutiny Committee, in thanking the officer for an informed report and for the work undertaken to secure Section 106 agreements, subsequently
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress made on Section 106 matters between April 2013 and March 2014 be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In view of the contents contained therein.
573 LEISURE CONTRACT MONITORING (DDS) -
The Council’s Annual Governance Statement published in September 2013 had highlighted amongst other issues concerns regarding the adequacies and effectiveness of the financial and quality monitoring arrangements surrounding the partnership arrangements within the Leisure Management Contract. The Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton, had then subsequently been requested to produce a report on contract monitoring within the Vale of Glamorgan which included the Leisure Management Contract. This report had been published in the June 2014 and had been presented to the Council’s Audit on 7th July, 2014. The Audit Committee had requested the Director of Development Services to provide an update on proposals to address the concerns that had been raised and the Director advised the Scrutiny Committee that he had taken a composite plan of actions as outlined at Appendix A to the report to the Audit Committee on 22nd September, 2014.
Members were further advised that a Monitoring Group had been established to monitor progress and that plans were being made for a presentation on contract monitoring arrangements to be made to all Members of the Council. The Committee was further advised that a comprehensive check list had been compiled of all clauses that had been included in the original contract that required monitoring as well as the key performance indicators against which the contract would be judged which would be used as a basis for ongoing discussions with the contractor in relation to the monitoring of the contract. The check list included reference to a variety of schedules and clauses including quality assurance measures, financial and property clauses and employment related clauses.
The Chairman, in response, stated that she welcomed the plan that had been developed and the training that had been earmarked. The Director also tabled details of the performance indicators and measures that had been included in the specification that had been drawn up for the contract which included performance standards, the method of assessment, the measurement failure and the frequency of monitoring.
Members thanked the officers for the information provided as this had not been available when the Parkwood Report had been presented at the Scrutiny meeting during 2013. Members were equally keen to ensure that a training session took place as early as possible and that the future focus should be on exception reporting undertaken on a quarterly basis. The Mystery Shopper approach identified in the plan was also considered to be an effective tool to ensure quality control checks on all Parkwood sites.
Prior to full consideration of the report, the Operational Manager for Leisure and Tourism provided the Committee with a presentation in relation to Leisure Management Contract Monitoring.
In commencing the presentation, the Operational Manager addressed the question of 'what do we want from the Leisure Management Contract?' and referred to the following:
the quality experience of customers,
high usage of the facilities,
a wide range of activities,
well maintained buildings,
low subsidy costs and
compliance with the contract / specification.
The new monitoring approach that had been developed included a monitoring plan and checklist and would be undertaken with a team approach to monitoring utilising existing resources. Regular reports would be made to the Scrutiny Committee with areas of monitoring covering financial aspects, property, employment, health and safety, program of activities and outcomes. Financial monitoring would take the format of looking at audited accounts, insurance cover, energy costs, fees and charges, contract price increases and Legacy Leisure adjustments. Protecting the asset would include planned, preventative maintenance records, investment works completed, redecoration works, plant and machinery records, pool testing records, training logs for equipment and maintaining the condition as at the time of the handover.
With regard to employment and protecting the workforce this would include developing staff training records, assessing staff qualifications, TUPE information, local employment sustainability, health and safety of employees and COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health). The issues for protecting the customer included details of the opening hours, the programme of activities, health and safety of customers, risk assessments, sports equipment, free swimming, LAPA Sports Development, the National Exercise Referral Scheme, Welsh language compliance, Equal Opportunities compliance, Armed Forces free usage, ICT equipment, cleaning standards, Child Protection policy.
The Performance Indicators and measures as contained within the information tabled at the meeting included details of energy consumptions, sustainable jobs, accident statistics, increases in usage, satisfaction levels, value for money at leisure centres and customer care plans.
The Operational Manager advised that, in his view, Parkwood were very keen to ensure a good product was provided and had put considerable resources into their service. They also operated in excess of 100 leisure centres throughout England and Wales. In referring to the recent report that had been submitted to Cabinet the Operational Manager advised that Parkwood had appointed a Sub-Contractor, Legacy Leisure, to undertake the role which allowed the company to benefit from VAT savings. This did not affect the contract or the PIs and measures that were in place. The Operational Manger reminded the Committee that it was also important to note that the Council had also made its £1m saving that it had identified when the contract had been established.
Members agreed that customer satisfaction was key to the success of the contract with Members requesting to receive further information in relation to customer feedback on a regular basis.
The Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development stated that as the portfolio holder, he regularly visited all the leisure centres within the Vale and was pleased with the work that Parkwood was doing. He advised Committee that important to note that if Parkwood had not accepted the contract many leisure centres in the Vale would probably have closed due to the Council’s financial situation. Members welcomed the report and the detail in relation to the performance indicators and measures to be monitored and also welcomed the approach suggested for future monitoring of the service. It was agreed that a session be held as soon as possible for Members to consider the KPI’ s and the management information currently available in greater detail. The Director advised that he would also ensure that regular reports were brought before the Scrutiny Committee over the next 12 months with each report delving into greater detail in relation to the various elements of the contract to assist with the monitoring of performance.
Having considered the report it was subsequently
(1) T H A T a briefing / training session be arranged for Members of the Scrutiny Committee as soon as possible, to assist in the monitoring of the Leisure Service contract.
(2) T H A T further reports be presented to the Scrutiny Committee, over the next twelve months, covering the various elements contained within the Leisure Services contract.
(3) T H A T a training session be arranged for all Members of the Council as recommended in the monitoring plan at Appendix A to the report.
(4) T H A T, notwithstanding recommendations (1), (2) and (3) above, the proposals for future monitoring of the Leisure Management Contract be noted.
Reasons for the recommendations
(1) To assist in the monitoring of the Leisure Service contract.
(2) To allow the Scrutiny Committee to delve into various elements of the contract.
(3) To provide an opportunity to all Councillors to be better informed to scrutinise the performance of contractors.
(4) To ensure the performance of contractors is adequately monitored.