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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 8th March, 2016.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A. Moore (Chairman): Councillor P.G. King (Vice-Chairman); Councillors A.G. Bennett, P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, A.G. Powell, G. Roberts and S.T. Wiliam.

 

Also present: Councillors L. Burnett, R.F. Curtis, N.P. Hodges, G. John and N. Moore.

 

 

911     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 2nd February, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

912     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

913     INTEGRATED WEED / PEST CONTROL (DEH) –

 

Councillor R.F. Curtis, not a Member of the Committee, had requested that the matter be considered and asked the question

 

“Should the Vale of Glamorgan Council adopt a policy of “Integrated weed / pest control” as advocated by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE)?”.

 

“Many scientists and ecologists are coming to the view that the reliance upon chemical methods of weed control is unsustainable and recognises the growing evidence that points towards the increased use of herbicide and pesticide is damaging to the environment.

 

Traditionally, local government have chosen herbicides and pesticides to control weeds and insects, but ever since the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring”, people have become increasingly aware of the potential damaging effect of introducing chemicals into ecosystems.

 

More recently, there have been health concerns about the most commonly used weed killer in the world, glyphosate, when the well-respected International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that glyphosate probably could cause cancer in humans.

 

I am aware that affordability will be an issue particularly as the Council struggles to meet budgetary savings, but equally the Council has a legal and moral duty to reduce impacts which may cause adverse effects to both human health and the environment.

 

Please refer for evidence to APSE briefing 15-33 “The need for integrated weed control”.

 

I would like to invite a representative of Friends of the Earth Cymru and / or and representative from APSE (via video link) to give evidence on the policy.”

 

In presenting his request, Councillor Curtis also tabled information from a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) report entitled “Where have all the birds gone?” and information on chemical free pest control.  He commenced by advising that over 60% of the wildlife had been lost in the last 50 years and he urged the Council to enhance biodiversity and to make it an integral part of its decision-making process.  Councillor Curtis then took the opportunity to thank the officers for the report that had been produced for the Committee and to the Chairman for the opportunity afforded to him to present his request and the video evidence to be given by Mr. Wayne Priestley, APSE Principal Advisor, regarding an APSE briefing paper 15-33 “The need for integrated weed control”. 

 

Mr. Priestley then proceeded to provide via a video conferencing facility from his main office base in Manchester, his evidence to the Committee.  Mr. Priestley stated that APSE provided advice and assistance across the whole of the country and that his area of specialism was the environment and referred to concerns that had been raised in relation to the chemical glyphosate.  The need for different approaches to weed control had recently been heightened by a report which stated the most commonly used weed killer in the world, glyphosate, may cause cancer.  Accounting for over a third of all herbicide sales and most commonly used in the product Roundup, glyphosate had been classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in a report by the well-respected International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  A copy of the APSE briefing 15-33 was contained within the agenda.  He stated that APSE shared the view that the reliance upon chemical methods of weed control was unsustainable and recognised the growing evidence that pointed towards the increased use of herbicide and pesticide was damaging to the environment.  Although APSE did equally recognise that in a time of austerity, introducing a new method of working which had the potential to cost more initially may be difficult to introduce by Local Authorities and other organisations.  However, with careful planning and implementation, long term savings and reduced negative impacts on human health and the environment could be achieved.  He was aware that more and more Local Authorities were looking at a variety of weed control methods to address the problems in their areas.  Integrated weed management (IWM) uses several techniques to control weeds, thereby reducing the chance that the weed species would adapt to the control techniques which was likely if only one technique was used and at the same reduce health and environmental impacts. 

 

Aware that it would be impossible to ban all chemical usage as there was a need for some, his view was that a more targeted approach was required.  Reducing the amount of chemicals and looking at providing less and more sustainable use of pesticides was imperative as no one knew the long term effects of glyphosate.  Mr. Priestley stated that there were a number of different methods of weed control, the most frequently used being physical control, biological control and chemical control.  Despite there being no legal requirement to use less pesticides, the UK had to comply with Sustainable Use and Water Framework Directives laid down by the EU.  The Government’s preferred approach was to persuade and encourage the adoption of an integrated approach so that the nation cuts its overall use of pesticides, the environment is preserved and the EU does not move to more stringent measures.  The guidance advised the adoption of a four stage approach:

 

  • Planning
  • Determine appropriate treatment
  • Contract procurement and implementation
  • Review progress.

 

There also had to be cultural control, it being noted that although weeds may not be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they were not a danger.  It was also accepted that the key to the access of adopting integrated weed control programmes was obviously the availability of financial resources, which had already been widely adopted across Europe.  Of note was the need for all departments to talk to each other and for the plan to be integrated within all service departments for a co-ordinated plan to be adopted. In various places a red, green, amber management system had been adopted. It was however important that the Council considered public health and wellbeing aspects when considering a management plan. 

 

Mr. Priestley further advised that in Barcelona (Spain) a total ban on the use of glyphosate had been made, with the city looking to a more ecological approach with natural predators getting rid of the weeds on a natural basis.  It was also important to keep the public informed and to advise of the various methods that could be used.  Although aware that the European Union legislation would eventually drive Councils down the route of integrated weed monitoring plans, it was still a moral and ethical issue for Councils. Paragraph 5 of the APSE briefing document produced stated that APSE was aware that affordability would be an issue, particularly as Local Authorities struggled to meet budgetary savings, but equally Local Authorities had a legal and moral responsibility to reduce impacts which may cause adverse effects to human health and the environment.  Also of note was the fact that with developing technology and proven use across Europe, there was a potential in the medium to long term that the adoption of integrated weed control would produce savings with the reduced chemical use and ultimately would help improve and protect both human health and environmental assets. 

 

The Council’s Parks and Open Space Officer, Adam Sargent, subsequently then provided the Committee with a presentation in relation to the work currently being undertaken within the Department, and in referring to the report within the agenda, advised that the Council’s Parks and Grounds Maintenance Service presently used pesticides to a minimum, but certain situations did arise where pesticide use was the most appropriate option for weed control.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council managed its use of pesticides by following the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products.  The Code reflected a number of laws and set out best practice as outlined below:

 

           

Food and Environmental Protection Act 1985

Control of Pesticides Regs. 1986 (as amended)

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regs. (1992)

This Code reflects the following laws and sets out “Best Practice”:

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

 

The Code also provided clear guidance on training and certification, planning and preparation, working with pesticides, disposing of pesticide waste and record keeping.  The Vale had current and future pesticide objectives which were outlined as below:

 

  • To stop the use of pesticides - wherever possible
  • To minimise / reduce use of pesticides
  • To use alternative methods - wherever possible
  • To continually assess methods.

 

Members were informed that the Council did not herbicide spray any lawned open spaces neither did they herbicide spray sport pitch markings with the exception of fine turf and cricket outfields, and did not spray for pests (green fly / black fly). 

 

The Department was currently minimising or reducing the use of pesticides with the aim of utilising an integrated pest management system through legal controls, biological controls, cultural controls, mechanical and physical controls and chemical controls.  Staff were preparing wild flower flower areas and herbaceous borders.  With regard to the use of glyphosate, the Parks Department usage per annum for pesticides was around 150 litres approximately.  Of this, approximately 80 litres were glyphosate based.  Reference was made to the fact that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was approximately 33,500 hectares in size of which approximately 12% was farmed as arable land, which would equate to 4,020 hectares.  Using the same dose rate of three applications per year, for each litre used by Parks, 377 litres were used elsewhere and this did not take into account private use of around 55,000 households. 

 

Further work to minimise and reduce the use of pesticides was undertaken in the Highways Department with the use of the machinery Weed-IT, with a typical chemical reduction of 70% being made.  Alternative methods were used wherever possible, for example mulch shrub beds, improved field husbandry, use of the mechanical sweeper, mechanical methods and independent fine turf analysis.  In order to encourage best practice the Department monitored changes in legislation, attended events such as the Green Project, shared good practice and learning with other Welsh Local Authorities, ensured all staff were trained and competent, discussed with suppliers, read trade magazines and worked with the Amenity Forum. 

 

The Amenity Forum was formed as an independent body to bring together professional organisations with an involvement in the amenity horticultural sector.  It was an industry led project to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides and the Forum was fully recognised as the voice for the sector on matters relating to weeds, pests and disease control in the amenity sector.  45 organisations were direct members representing manufacturers, distributors, contractors, Local Authorities and a range of other bodies.  It promoted and encouraged proper and responsible use of pesticides and integrated methods for the control of pests, weeds and diseases. 

 

The Council also used the Green Dragon Standard Ethos which was based on the ISO14001 European Environmental Standard.  The Green Flag standard was also used. 

 

In conclusion the Parks Officer advised that both the Parks and Grounds Maintenance and Highways Sections believed the current approach to weed and pest control was effective, sustainable and caused minimum interference to the immediate eco systems.  There was however, an acknowledgement that cost was a factor in the present working practices but there were however no plans to change the current operating procedures, but both Departments reassured the Committee that they would continually monitor changes in legislation, biological control advances and would modify methods accordingly.  The Parks and Highways Sections were very aware of sustainability and climate change issues in relation to the use of pesticides.  The current corporate priority was to achieve a quality of the environment through the promotion and use of sustainable practices and by making the best use of current and future resources. 

 

Mr. Wayne Priestley, in response, commended the Authority and the Parks Officer on its current approach to weed and pest control, however he urged the Council to consider enhancing its ways further in order to reduce the use of glyphosate as much as it possibly could. 

 

In response, Councillor R.F. Curtis advised that he was reassured that the Council was adopting a type of integrated weed control system but was also of the opinion that education was key and that further raising of public awareness should be encouraged.  He took the opportunity to ask the Committee to consider requesting Cabinet to adopt the principle of integrated weed control and to also refer a copy of the report to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for its consideration.  The Cabinet Member for Visible Services and Leisure stated that there were a number of ways that the public could reduce the use of pesticides in managing their own gardens at home.  He too welcomed the work that was being undertaken by the Parks and Highways Departments in limiting the use of chemical products.

 

Members stated that they welcomed the report and congratulated the officer on the work currently being undertaken to date.  They considered that the presentation was most informative and provided the detail on the work that was being undertaken within the Highways and Parks Department in relation to reducing the use of pesticides throughout the Vale.  If it was possible to further reduce, this was something to be considered in the future and that further close working with both Departments should be maintained.  The general management that was ongoing was to be commended but that all opportunities to raise the profile further with regard to the use of glyphosate should be undertaken in order that the Council could be assured that all departments and the public were receiving the same message. 

 

The Chairman in conclusion thanked Mr Priestly for his evidence advising that it was an area that the Committee could monitor on an annual basis.

 

Therefore, having fully considered the report, the evidence provided to the Committee and the discussion that had taken place at the meeting, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the presentation and report be referred to the Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

(2)       T H A T a report be referred back to the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months’ time updating on any further progress, including details of any other options that could be considered as well as well as to raise awareness.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members.

 

(2)       In order to evaluate future work and cost implications for the Council.

 

 

914     VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL ANNUAL SELF-ASSESSMENT (REF) -

 

Cabinet had referred the report to all Scrutiny Committees for their consideration as part of the 2016/17 service planning process.  The Director of Environment and Housing  commenced by advising that attached as an appendix to the report was a strategic self-assessment of the Council’s performance for the period 2014-16 that identified strengths, achievements key challenges and areas for improvement.  Committee was advised that self-assessments formed a core part of the statutory local government inspection processes in Wales and that under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 the Council was required to undertake a self-evaluation of all its services and use the information to inform planning for improvement. 

 

The annual Council reporting framework for Social Services also required reporting on progress, outcomes and plans for improvement and this would build on the Council’s internal assessment of performance.  Self-evaluation and reporting would also form the core element of Estyn’s Common Inspection Framework and annual self-evaluation.

 

The self-assessment report, detailed at Appendix 1 to the Cabinet report, demonstrated it was a refinement in the way annual performance was assessed.  The report moved away from a focus solely on service performance to one that incorporated aspects of governance, resource management and collaborative working for the Council as a whole.  It was intended that this would provide a more balanced picture corporately of Council performance and the challenges being faced that would be used to inform future plans for improvement.  The report was based on the key themes of the Wales Audit Office’s Annual Improvement Report: Performance Management, Governance, Resource Management and Collaboration and Partnerships.  The report presented the strengths and the areas for improvement relative to each of these themes and to draw upon an internal assessment of performance data, the Council’s Annual Governance Statement, Internal Audit reports, the Annual Improvement Report issued by the Wales Audit Office, and reports by other external regulators and service based information.  It also outlined the arrangements that were in place to support and identify any improvements in how the Council worked and delivered services.  Evidence sources were provided for each theme to support the judgements made.  This was detailed at Appendix D.  A summary of the Council’s key achievements to date in relation to the Corporate Plan was also provided at Appendix C.

 

Appendix A of the report contained individual self-assessments for each of the Council’s Directorates.  These provided an overview of performance over the past year against the 2015/16 Service Plans, which were written at a Directorate level.  The self-assessments contained a brief position statement and performance overview.  The self-assessment would then identify the key challenges, risks and priorities for services going forward into 2016/17. 

 

The Director, in referring specifically to environment and housing, advised that one of the main issues for the Department was the unprecedented budget pressures.  The Department was currently engaging consultants to look at the work of the Department and how future services could be delivered.  The general view however, was that the in-house provision was good, but it could be more efficient.  The Department would also be considering the possibility of charging for its services, professional skills, etc. and also considered the opportunity to reduce its operating costs via future collaboration.  New legislation had major implications for the Department, in particular waste legislation, and again the Department was working with consultants from Welsh Government with a view to considering how the service should be taken forward in relation to source segregation as the moving away from co-mingled waste would be a major factor for the Department.  With regard to highway maintenance work, the loss of funding from Welsh Government had also had a major impact on the service and future funding.

 

The Director however, stated that the Service was still customer focused and out of the nine PIs five were improving, one was staying the same with the three that were reducing being directly related to investment.  The Department was also working closely with users with the aim to maximise the use of its transport. Excellent relationships existed with trade unions and a number of new systems had been introduced following discussions.  Work had also been undertaken with the accountants with the Director stating that the Department was well placed to meet the challenges it faced, although aware that the size of the challenge was great. 

 

A Member queried the information in relation to satisfaction levels, advising that they were surprised that the satisfaction levels were high.  However, the Director confirmed that the figures had been taken some time ago and that managing expectations was a priority for the Department.  The Council was also working with Town and Community Councils under its Reshaping Services agenda and there was a need to involve further partnership working. 

 

A number of Members confirmed that, in their view, the Department was “doing a pretty good job” under the circumstances and they offered their congratulations to the Department in dealing with the issues to date and the tough challenges ahead.  However, some members suggested that further marketing opportunities be undertaken wherever possible.

 

A Member queried whether young people could be encouraged to undertake some work on behalf of the Department, for example in local parks e.g. painting gates, etc. to which the Director responded that the Youth Offending Team often provided support in this area and that if Members forwarded the details of their requirements they could be added to the list.

 

It was accepted that the document was both helpful and informative and provided a broad idea of the challenges facing the Council and it was also useful to compare the Council’s performance with other Local Authorities in Wales. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the Council’s Annual Self-Assessment report attached at Appendix 1 to the Cabinet report, including identified areas for improvement for 2016/17 onwards, be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T in light of the challenges being faced, the Scrutiny Committee congratulates the Environment and Housing Department in respect of the work being undertaken and proposed in a time of challenging resources.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that the relevant Scrutiny Committee confirms that the issues identified within the self-assessment are a fair reflection of the challenges facing both the Council as a whole and individual service Directorates and that the information contained within the report is appropriate to inform service plans for 2016/17 onwards.

 

(2)       In recognition of the current and future financial challenges.

 

 

915     BARRY ISLAND BEACH HUTS (REF) –

 

Cabinet had, on 22nd February, referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  The report had been prepared in order to update the Cabinet on the

policy and rental arrangements for the 24 beach huts located at Barry Island, to review a range of options for the future letting and management of the units and to advise on the lessons learnt from the first year’s use of the beach huts.

 

Previously a report had been considered by Cabinet 16th June, 2014 in respect of the rental policy and arrangements for the Barry Island Beach Huts following consideration by the Scrutiny Committee on 20th May, 2014.  A copy of the current Beach Hut Policy was attached at Appendix A to the report which covered rental charges and seasonal operating hours.  The Director of Environment and Housing advised that the beach huts had been available for rent since Easter 2015, with bookings being generally taken over the telephone via the Council’s Contact Centre.  There had been 233 bookings made for the beach huts from Easter 2015 to February 2016, generating £8,026 of income.  A graph detailing the number of booking days from March 2015 to March 2016 was tabled at the meeting for Members’ information. 

 

Going forward the Director stated that there was a need to consider how the beach huts should be managed, with it being imperative that everyone continued to have the opportunity to rent a beach hut at an affordable rate with occupancy of the beach huts being  maximised all year round.  The report before Committee outlined a number of options for the management of the beach huts with the first option being to continue with the current Beach Hut Policy, the second to lease some or all of the beach huts either annually or for a longer period of time and a third option being to amend the current Beach Hut Policy to allow for the purchase of weekly, monthly and annual season tickets for some of the beach huts.  A fourth option that was suggested for consideration, which could be implemented for the 2016 summer season, was to include the beach huts within the coastal concessions for Barry Island. 

 

The Director, in his comments, advised that there was a need to consider whether local businesses would be willing to hold keys in order that day trippers could hire the beach huts on a daily basis with key access being more readily obtainable.  The possibility of introducing season tickets was also one aspect that could be considered.  He also took the opportunity to inform Members that there had been very few complaints in respect of the beach huts from users.  The Director also mentioned that he was aware of some comments having been made that the costs of hiring the beach huts were too high and that although these were anecdotal comments, further consideration would need to be given.

 

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, having had portfolio responsibility for the beach huts when they were established, took the opportunity to advise that previous discussions with the Scrutiny Committee had identified that the beach huts were part of a wider plan as they brought colour and vitality to the eastern end of the promenade.  A great amount of publicity had also been afforded to the beach huts over the previous 12 months, with pictures of the huts being distributed via the media and social media sites.  In her view, this was an important aspect that needed to be borne in mind, as media coverage had further assisted with raising the profile of Barry Island.  The Cabinet Member also stated other potential opportunities could be explored and referred to the potential usage by schools and the voluntary sector out of season, advising that there were some children in Barry who she was aware had actually never been to the seaside.  She was of the opinion that although usage had been low, the beach huts had certainly raised the profile of Barry and their management had been a learning curve for the Council hence the decision to pilot the scheme on an initial basis. 

 

In response, a Member of the Committee stated that it had indeed been a learning curve for the Council, and that there were lessons to learn from the pilot scheme but that after a year it was now important to assess and take on board any suggestions.  The Member referred to the need to ensure that the hire of a beach hut was more readily available, with payments being able to be made via mobile phones etc., in light of the public’s current use of technology, Wi-Fi was paramount.  It was important that wherever possible, anyone wishing to hire a hut could do so via their mobile phone etc.  The Member also raised concerns in respect of the lack of facilities (e.g. electricity and running water) in some of the beach huts.  A business plan, in their opinion, was also essential and they concurred with other Members’ views that co-operation with schools should be considered, including the further education sector. 

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges, not a Member of the Committee, was granted permission to speak, and stated that he too believed the beach huts had become instantly recognisable and associated with Barry Island through publicity, but stated that the first year had been, in his opinion, very poor performance.  He also advised that he would welcome the involvement of schools and again the ability to pay with cash was imperative.  Local businesses could be asked to hold keys he suggested and that the Council should not wait for another year as such measures should be put in place immediately.

 

Other Members concurred with the suggestions that it was important that people could purchase the beach huts with cash in order that the Council can take in as much income as possible.  The Council should consider reducing the hire prices and they were aware that many people visiting the Island had been of the view they could have been purchased on the spot.  Technology was also essential as many people used debit and credit cards more readily.  A number of Members agreed that the Council should give itself another year with adequate thought being given to the management of the beach huts and the development of further publicity and marketing opportunities being made before passing over management to anyone else.  In conclusion it was considered that more flexibility should be afforded to officers in the implementation of any policy. 

 

The Chairman stated that the beach huts had been built as an integral part of the regeneration programme and, in her view, other opportunities should be explored including consideration of reducing the rental price of the huts, a different charging system, relaxing the policy for one year to allow schools to rent the facilities and for other organisations to also be allowed to use them.  It was important that a new payment system be considered and work be undertaken with the Tourism Department to further promote and advertise the beach huts and possible management of them.  Actively marketing the product she considered would reap rewards and was of the firm opinion that they should not be put out to concession. 

 

All Members agreed that further marketing and publicity was essential to encourage usage and to capitalise on the positive way the beach huts at Barry Island were being portrayed. 

 

Having fully considered the reference and report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet further explore options 1, 2 and 3 as outlined within paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 of the report and that a more flexible approach be afforded to officers within the Beach Huts Policy.

 

(2)       T H A T option 4 (concession proposal) as outlined within paragraph 15 of the report be not pursued at this time.

 

(3)       T H A T the minutes of the meeting be referred to Cabinet for their consideration in order that a further report can be prepared having regard to the  suggestions of the Scrutiny Committee contained therein and recommendations (1) and (2) above.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that options can be explored to determine the long term management and operation of the beach huts with a flexible approach being incorporated to allow officers to amend the policy as and when required having regard to service requirements.

 

(2)       The Committee consider that further exploration of other options needs to be addressed before a concession route is considered.

 

(3)       In order that Cabinet can be apprised of the views of the Scrutiny Committee in making its decision.

 

 

916     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2015 TO 31ST JANUARY 2016 (DEH) –

 

The Accountant for the service area in presenting the report advised that a graph and table setting out the variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

In referring to the Highways and Engineering section, there was currently a £67k favourable variance against the amended profiled budget with the main reason being due to vacant posts currently within the Highways Department. 

 

For Waste Management there was currently a favourable variance of £67k, which noted that the early implementation of the Prosiect Gwyrdd contract was providing considerable savings for the waste disposal budget. 

 

The Grounds Maintenance section was also currently projecting a £9k favourable variance, mainly due to an underspend on transport costs which had decreased over the winter months.  The Transport Unit which covered both Road Safety, School Crossing Patrols and Passenger Transport, mainly in the form of buses for education and supported bus routes, was showing a favourable variance of £132k which related to staffing costs within the division being underspent and payments for the supported bus service being lower than budgeted for. 

 

Under Regeneration Services, a favourable variance of £81k referred to occupancy levels of workshops remaining high with costs below budget on the Employment Training Service which was nearing the end of its programme term.  Costs within the Countryside Division were also below budget as filming income had been higher than anticipated and both staffing and transport costs lower than expected.

 

For the Development Management service a favourable variance of £213k was attributed to the receipt of higher income from planning applications being higher than previously budgeted for.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st January, 2016 with a number of schemes being identified. 

 

In considering the capital schemes detailed at paragraphs 12 to 31, Members raised specific concerns in relation to the Coldbrook Flood Management and were advised that the ten month programme was in place. It was currently on budget with the request being made by Members for a more detailed progress report to be presented to a future meeting of the Committee by the Principal Engineer – Coastal and Floodrisk Management.  Members had also been advised that an issue had arisen at Brock Street in relation to the compound that was being used with the Director advising that the intention was to relocate the compound to a more suitable location. 

 

In congratulating the Department on the work undertaken on resurfacing at Sully Road Members noted that a number of vacant posts currently existed within the Highways Department and raised concerns as to whether staff were being put  under significant pressure with the holding of vacant positions in light of limited resources. The Vice-Chairman also commented that in relation to the considerable savings from the early implementation of the Prosiect Gwyrdd contract, there was anxiety in relation to the sustainability of this budget surplus in the future.  The Director, in response, stated that some proposed suggested savings had not materialised but they had to be made in the future.  The accountant reported that the recent Revenue Budget Proposals report to Full Council included an updated savings target for the Committee as well as items of committed growth to the budget to meet some of the ongoing budget pressures.  A detailed report was shortly to be presented to Cabinet in respect of street lighting issues amongst others. 

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Coastal and Flood Risk Manager be invited to a future meeting of the Committee to provide a detailed report on progress in respect of the Coldbrook Flood Management Scheme.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

(2)       In order that a detailed assessment of the scheme and the work being undertaken can be presented to Members.

 

 

917     TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT TASK AND FINISH GROUP OF THE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – UPDATE ON ACTIONS UNDERTAKEN (DEH) –

 

The Head of Visible Services and Transport provided Members with an updated on the progress made on the implementation of the actions contained within the Traffic Management Task and Finish Group report.

 

The Traffic Management Task and Finish Group Report had been considered by the Scrutiny Committee on 29th April, 2014 and an update report on progress was received by the Committee on 14th April, 2015.  At that time, one of the recommendations made was that the Scrutiny Committee receives updates on the delivery of the Implementation Plan in April 2016.

 

Appendix A to the report provided a detailed update on the Plan and the recommendations highlighted in green had either been completed or were on track for completion, those highlighted amber were currently being progressed and recommendations highlighted in red were noted as having not yet started.

 

Although the Appendix illustrated that some actions had not been progressed to date, there was a commitment to consider the final two actions over the forthcoming year.  However, of note was the fact that the majority of actions had been significantly progressed or were complete and were being duplicated within the adopted Local Transport Plan 2015.  The report recommended that the two work stream reports be combined in the future to enable the Scrutiny Committee to receive updates in one single report from 2016/17 onwards.

 

Members were pleased to note that the majority of the 28 improvement actions contained within the Plan had been progressed, either internally using existing funding or delivered through transport grant, Section 106 finance or Section 278 Highway Works as a part of new development, capital funding, or other grants that had become available either through the public or private sectors. 

 

Following a query from a Member in relation to a suggestion that a cycleway be provided at Gilbert Lane, on noting that this had also been discussed at the previous meeting of the Committee and recorded in the minutes, the Member stated that it had not been their intention for the route to be for school children as his request had been for a route for people to cycle from Barry to Cardiff.  However, the Head of Service, in response advised that the Barry Docks Link Road was unsafe to cross and the Department could therefore not encourage the public to cross that road for health and safety reasons.  It was also to be noted that the pathway also had a high gradient.  However, the Head of Service could advise that a future route was proposed from the McDonalds roundabout to the Murch which the Department would be promoting in the future. 

 

In referring to queries with regard to schemes on Barry Island, the Head of Service responded that there were a couple of schemes taking place on the Island, one to consider an improved cycleway and that work was also being undertaken by Welsh Water, who were due to be offsite by Easter.  Again, in relation to the Barry Island Link Road, discussions would be taking place with the developers (the Consortium) as much as possible, although the final work was not expected to be completed until the Summer.  The Chairman suggested that an invitation be extended to Consortium representatives to attend a future meeting of the Committee to provide the Committee with an update on the work being undertake to date and the timescale for completion. 

 

In referring to the bus lane at Port Road, Members were informed that a dedicated bus lane had been planned which was part of a Welsh Government funded scheme for the Metro in order to assist commuters in getting to Cardiff.  Improved cycle and walking facilities were also earmarked at that location with improvements to be made to key junctions.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the update on the Traffic Management Task and Finish Group Implementation Plan as detailed at Appendix A to the report be accepted and referred to Cabinet for consideration and / or approval. 

 

(2)       T H A T a further update report on the delivery of the Traffic Management Task and Finish Group Implementation Plan as part of the Local Transport Plan update report be presented in February 2017.

 

(3)       T H A T Consortium representatives developing the Barry Island Link Road be requested to attend a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee to provide details of the work being undertaken and the timescales involved. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members and seek Cabinet approval.

 

(2)       To monitor progress on the Implementation Plan as part of the Local Transport Plan.

 

(3)       In order that Members can be apprised of the work being undertaken and timescales involved.

 

 

918     QUARTER 3 DEVELOPMENT SERVICES PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEH) –

 

The Head of Service for Regeneration and Planning advised that overall the service was well on course to achieving the objectives contributing to its service outcomes, with 93% of actions being noted as complete or on track and out of a total of 43 actions in the Plan, two were complete, 38 on track and three had slipped.   The one Improvement Objective related action was on track for completion with there being no Outcome Agreement actions for the service area.

 

Of the 25 performance indicators, 11 (44%) had met or exceeded target, 9 (36%) were within 10% of target, and 5 (20%) had missed target by more than 10%. The two performance indicators relating to the Improvement Objectives and Outcome Agreement had both met target. 

 

Of the five indicators that have missed target, the one indicator that related to the Committee was DS/M032b.

 

  • DS/M032b: The percentage of building control applications that are submitted online.  While this target had not been met, the Council has no control over how applicants submit applications and has limited resources to place adverts in the local press, however we encourage local businesses to apply online.

 

Against Outcome 1, 'Residents in the Vale live in safe, healthy, prosperous and sustainable communities', good progress continued to be recorded in terms of increasing physical activity levels.  A recent independent schools sports survey showed a growth in the Vale's performance of 8% over the last two years and maintained the Council's top three position in Wales.   

 

The Vale Sport plan continued to be on track and was delivered with a variety of partners.  Projects were moving into their final quarter and a full end of year report would be available in April / May to identify the full impact of the Vale Sport plan for 2015/2016.  There was continued emphasis on identifying funding opportunities to support the delivery of play activities in the Vale through for example, Section 106 funding and links with Town and Community Councils.  Members were further informed that 21 long term unemployed individuals had found jobs during the quarter through the Council’s delivery of the work programme and the service continued to aim to maintain its Minimum Service Standard and Minimum Performance Levels. The minimum numbers of job entries and outcomes, set by the Prime contractor JobFit; referrals were reducing as a result of increased levels of employment.

 

The Rural Development Plan delivery team had also now been fully recruited and was exploring priority projects.  The team was also supporting Council departments and external groups to gain access to the new Rural Community Development Grant.   Slippage was reported for two actions under Outcome 1:

  • “A preferred bidder had been identified for a new cinema in Barry, they subsequently had withdrawn their bid.  Work continued to identify a possible replacement (DS/A079).
  • Work with partners to enhance and regenerate the Penarth Esplanade and ensure sustainable and convenient links with the Town Centre and Penarth Haven had slipped due to the volume of work in Highways.  It was unlikely that this work would be undertaken this financial year (DS/A082). “

 

Against Outcome 2, ' Development within the Vale is sustainable and the environment is protected and enhanced for current and future generations', the implementation of appropriate traffic management systems and the improvement of sustainable transport infrastructure; including the provision of footpaths, cycle ways and bridleways had been completed this quarter through the delivery of a new cycle pedestrian route.

 

In referring to the slipped action due to the volume of work in the Highways Department, DS/A082, Members queried what could be done in order to ensure that this work was undertaken.  In response, the Head of Service stated that in terms of looking at the constraints under the Esplanade, this work could only be undertaken by Council staff who had the plans to be able to make the assessment. However, as a result of the volume of work within the Department, it was unlikely that this work would be undertaken in the current financial year, but would be progressed in the next financial year. In response to a concern that there could be a risk should the development not go ahead, the Head of Service advised that there was no risk as a result. 

 

Although aware that Disabled Facilities Grants were not within the remit of the Scrutiny Committee, a Member queried what the Council could do in order to improve the service. In response the Head of Service stated that with regard to some of the performance indicators they were not within his management control as although the department could consider an offer of assistance it had no control over their working practices.

 

The Chairman, referring to the Vale Sport Plan and the presentation that had been made to a previous meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, considered that it was important that the good work was being carried forward and requested that the presentation be made to the new Committee with the portfolio responsibility following the Annual meeting. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Vale Sport Review Plan be presented to the new Scrutiny Committee with the relevant portfolio responsibility from May 2016.

 

(2)       T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions being taken to address service underperformance as contained within the report be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2015-16 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order to apprise the new Scrutiny Committee of the work being undertaken and to consider any future implications.

 

(2&3)  In noting the work being undertaken in relation to service performance results and remedial actions and in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the relevant Plans. 

 

 

919     QUARTER 3 VISIBLE SERVICES PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEH) –

 

In view of the lateness of the hour, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be deferred for consideration at the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the lateness of the hour.

 

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